‘Thought of all these small moments disappearing into the ether is a painful one’

There’s too much to remember, but we have to try

I do not have a good memory. It bothers me how little I remember of my childhood or teenage years.

I remember some things, of course.

I remember once the train drivers went on strike and I had to walk to school, which took about two hours. Not a very exciting memory, I’ll grant you, but why do I remember it so vividly? Probably because it was out of the ordinary. It only happened the once. I assume this is why things like summer holidays burn extra bright in our memories.

Recently, a friend set up a group chat to organise our 20-year school reunion, and the old photos have been coming thick and fast. They’re brilliant photos and I had never seen most of them before. Twenty years is a long time, but these photos look even older. They look like they were taken in the 1980s, not the 90s. Here’s a picture of me and some friends sitting on a couch at a house party. We must be 15 or 16. We’re laughing and clearly so happy to be in each other’s company.


I wish I remembered it.

I wish I took more of my own photos. Or kept a diary, or paid more attention. These are regrets I have tried to rectify since having children.

Our first child was born 5½ years ago. I think about this and something doesn’t add up. Having children messes with your perception of time. When you are young, time moves in one direction, and it moves fast. Five years is nothing. I was 20 when I blinked and then I was 25. Now a single night can last a month. The future gets swirled up with the present. How can my children be so young? I’ve known them my whole life.

Here’s what I want to remember.

My son running through the house looking for hidden treasure. With his uneven, shaggy home-haircut he looks like one of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. In fairness, this impression probably has more to do with the full pirate costume he’s currently sporting than the haircut, but still . . . he looks the part. Here comes his little sister, trotting behind, delighted to just be there. She copies absolutely everything her big brother does. This is often cute, sometimes worrying.

Walking through Tesco I ask them what we should have for dinner. For the next five minutes they both scream, "Vagina cake! Vagina cake!" No idea where that one came from.

I’ve taken to keeping a note of the things they say.

For example:

“What would I do if I was a hot-dog?”

“The veins are the tunnel and the blood is the train.”

“What happens if you put lava in the oven?”

“Do purple grapes exist? Can I dream about purple grapes?”

And so on.

A wise man called Franklin Pierce Adams once said, "Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory." In one sense he is completely right: we can't collectively exorcise our demons by just pretending they don't exist. But in our personal lives it is surely reasonable to not want to remember every terrible little thing that happens.

Does it sound like I really do want to remember everything, or am I happy just cherry-picking the good stuff? Do I want to remember the sleepless nights? The stress? The vomiting, the tears, the screaming, the uneaten dinners, the ungodly amount of hours changing nappies? On reflection, I do.

I’m not going to remember it all. The kids are destined to forget; they might hang on to a few core memories. I wonder if they would hang on to a few more if not for the pandemic. I say I have a bad memory, but if I tried to write down every memory I have it would take a lifetime. Who knows what our kids will remember. Maybe the monotony of the last two years will be forgotten. We tried our best. What will stick out in their mind when they think back on being so young? Will they remember our old house? Stories at bedtime? Looking for fairies in the forest? A cold day at the beach with hot chocolate?

The thought of all these small moments disappearing into the ether is a painful one. There’s too much to remember, but we have to try.

It’s all worth remembering.