Tag Archive: memory


Pa and me on Christmas Day. He had made the pram and Grandma had garnished it. I was nearly four. I’ve always loved this photo.

Auntie’s standing to the left of the doorway.  She’s crying.  Mummy’s on the right.  She’s not crying but her eyes are red.  Grandma slips between them to enter the room.  Mummy pulls me out of her way.

Except for Grandma, we’re all in the hall.  Pa’s in bed.  He’s making funny noises.

I want to see him.  I try to go in.  Mummy pulls me back.

“You can’t go in.”

“Why?”

“Pa’s sick.”

“I want to see him.”

“He’s unconscious…  Pa’s sleeping.  He’s sleeping very deeply.  You mustn’t disturb him.”

“I’ll be quiet.  I just want to see him.”

“No.  Now, be a good girl.  Go and read your book.”

***

A little while later – a few days?  a few weeks? – we’re all back again.  I want to see Pa but the bed’s empty.  It’s all made up.  The blue bedspread’s on it.

“Where’s Pa?”

Auntie bursts into tears.  Mummy explains,

“The angels came and took him away.”

“Why?”

“Because they wanted to take him to Heaven.”

I nod.  But I have doubts.  He didn’t say goodbye.  Pa wouldn’t have gone to Heaven without saying goodbye.  I test the story.

“Did they come in through the door or through the window?”

Auntie’s now making quiet sobbing noises.  Mummy doesn’t like it.

“Through the door.”

I nod again.  There’s something wrong with this story.  I test again.

“Did they fly?”

Mummy’s getting impatient.  But Auntie and Grandma are there so she won’t scream at me.

“No, they walked.”

“Did Pa walk too?”

“The angels carried him.”

“Why?”

Mummy starts crying too.  She wants me to go away.  I can feel it.  I try to help her,

“Did they carry Pa to Heaven to make him better?”

Mummy hesitates.  I knew there was something wrong with her story!  If Pa’s gone to Heaven, why is everyone crying?  He didn’t go to Heaven.  He’d have said goodbye to me first if he had.  What are they hiding?

“Where’s Pa?”

“I told you!  He’s in Heaven!”

She’s angry now.  She might start screaming.  I go before she does.

***

Me at four. The photographer did everything he could think of to make me smile, even stood on his head. I felt very uncomfortable. Mummy made my dress.

Many years later, I accept my husband’s marriage proposal partly because he reminds me in some way of Pa.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have Pa’s natural nobility and goodness.  After six and a half years and three children, he repudiates me.

***

Many, many years later, in 2003, I write a play called Wounds.  A woman talking to her elderly mother.  It is in English so I read it to my mother over the telephone.  She is in Australia and I am in France.  Fortunately, it is only a One-Act Play.  In it, I talk about my grandfather’s death, but also about him and me.

I wrote the play in a rush for the 3rd Onassis International Theatre Competition.  I made it autobiographical because I didn’t have time to cook up a plot.  It was not very easy for me to write in English, either.  I changed all the names of course, but it’s still my story, very thinly disguised.  I only had time for one act so it has an unfinished feeling to it.  It needs at least one more act, possibly two depending on what I do with it.  I’ll probably never finish it as I won’t be performing it now.  Pity.  It’s a good first act.

Here’s a bit of it:

                         […]

MOTHER – What were you saying when I nodded off?

MARION – Nothing much.  I was thinking about Grandpa’s death…  And how it affected the rest of my life.

MOTHER – You were only four.  Do you want that biscuit?

MARION – No thanks.  (Passes the plate)  I was only four, but he was the first man I ever loved.  Daddy was never there.  …  And when he was, I wasn’t allowed to disturb him.  Reading his newspaper was more important than me.

MOTHER – Yes, I know.

MARION – Grandpa talked to me as if I was an adult.  He explained the garden to me.  The insects and all that.  I didn’t understand it all of course, but I followed him around and crouched down when he did.  He weeded and talked.  And I watched and listened.

MOTHER – You still remember that?

MARION – Yes.  And I remember when he was ill.  He was asleep and he made a lot of noise breathing.  I wasn’t allowed into the bedroom.

MOTHER – He was unconscious.

MARION – Well, if he was unconscious, I don’t see how my presence would have disturbed him!  …  Auntie Helen was crying in the hall.

MOTHER – That’s just about all she did, too!  Mum and I did all the work!  Changing him, washing him and everything.  She occasionally carried a tray!  On condition it wasn’t too heavy.  And usually only when the doctor was there.

MARION – Then one day, the door was shut and you said that the angels had taken him.  And I couldn’t believe he’d gone without saying goodbye.

MOTHER – I had to open the door and show you the empty bed!

MARION – It was made.  It was as if he’d never been in it.  Gone without a trace.  I remember asking how the angels had come in:  through the door, or through the window?  You said, “through the door”.

MOTHER – Did I?  I don’t remember that.  …  They did, of course.

MARION – Pardon?

MOTHER – The angels.  …  Well, of course, they were really the gentlemen from the Funeral Parlour, but it’s best to stick to the truth with children.  …  Especially you.

MARION – And your idea of “sticking to the truth” was to tell me that the angels had come in through the door?

MOTHER – Yes.  …  Well, I suppose so.  I don’t remember.  But you were that sort of child, you know.

MARION  – What sort?

MOTHER –  The sort that, having been told that angels had visited the house, asks whether they’d come in through the door or through the window.

MARION – Well, I had to fill in the blanks!

MOTHER – What do you mean by “blanks”, dear?

MARION – The holes!  The enormous gulf between Grandpa breathing heavily in bed, ill, but very present, and a perfectly-made empty bed with a freshly ironed blue satin bedspread on it!

MOTHER – You remember that too!

MARION – Of course I do!  That bedspread was part of the shock!  …  I should have been allowed to go to the funeral.

MOTHER – Yes, I realize that, dear.  But in those days, children didn’t go to funerals.

MARION – I know.  …  I’ll go and do the washing-up.

                         […]

***

The opening speech in the play is from Marion, who says, “Some wounds never heal.  …  You think they have, then Life comes along and rips them open again.  You find yourself living the same things over and over.  …  The faces change, but basically, the situations are the same.”

I think that this is true until we decide to do something about it.  We can break the cycle and free ourselves, but it is not always easy.  I don’t think that I ever really managed to do it.

***

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In the heart of the Year Thousand that comes after Year Thousand

Man will know that all living things are bearers of light

And that they are creatures to be respected

He will have built the new cities

In the sky, on the earth and on the sea.

 

He will have the memory of what was

And he will know what will be

He will no longer be afraid of his own death

For in his life he will have lived several lives

And the light, he will understand, will never go out.

 

This prophecy tells us the same thing that all of the world’s religions have been telling us for thousands of years:  every living thing carries within itself part of the universal light, which has been given different names at different times, one of them being “God”.  We now know that our DNA contains the memory of all life on this planet, as well as the knowledge of our future on Earth.  In a similar way, we hold within us the spiritual memory of our origins, and the spiritual knowledge of our future.

In this Golden Age, science and spirituality will come together in a common understanding of both our past and of our future.  Then, we will no longer be afraid of our own death because we will have understood that the light… will never go out.

To conclude this foray into the Prophecies of John of Jerusalem,  I would like to give my answer to the question “Why do some prophets predict the End of the World, and others, like John of Jerusalem, predict a new Golden Age?”.

The End of the World prophets and the Golden Age prophets are both right.  The first see the future we will have if we continue on the road on which we have been travelling.  The second see the future we will have if we take a different path.  The future that a prophet sees is probably a reflection of his own personal pessimism or optimism about which path Man will choose to travel.

Life is all about choices.  When we are children, choices concerning our lives are often made by someone else.  As adults, we make our own.

Our choices are reflections of whom we see ourselves to be.  No choice is necessarily bad in itself, although we may perceive it as such later on.

We are each born with a goal in life, with one or more particular lessons to learn.  The “right” path for each of us is the one which takes us to our goal and teaches us the lessons which we need to learn.  Our “right” path will not be the “right” path for somebody else.  Therefore, as individuals, it is not our role to judge other people’s life choices.

However, while, as individuals, we have our own goals and lessons to be learnt, we are also a tiny part of the human species, which also has a goal and lessons to be learnt.  To reach that goal, while learning the lessons, we need to work together, each of us contributing our particular talents and knowledge.

Humans often travel through time at different speeds.  Some of us are able to pop into the future, or zoom back into the past.  We are never able to stay there for very long, but visits can be frequent.  Both the past and the future can teach us how to attain both our individual goals and our collective goal(s).  We need all the help we can get.

So, which future do we want?  Do we want the End of the World, or do we want the Golden Age?  Are we willing to give up and let chaos reign until the Earth is too sick to be saved, or do we want to do something constructive, both as individuals and as a species, to help the Earth to heal?

It is up to us to decide.  Life is all about choices.

Christmas WishesTen days to Christmas, and I’ve only organized three presents.  Which reminds me of a 1979 London graffito:

“Go to church this Sunday – avoid the Christmas rush.”

My memory tends to throw up some weird word associations.  Something’s wrong with the hard drive.  There are glitches.

For the first few years after I moved to France, I burst into Christmas carols in June.  Once I had worked out that it was because I was used to celebrating Christmas in Summer, the glitch faded away.  Now that I’m back in Australia, I have trouble remembering that I have to start preparing for Christmas in Spring.  So it always sneaks up on me.

I haven’t the faintest clue what I’m going to get for people.  It always seems to work out in the end.  But then, I come from a reasonably polite family.  Although, I have received the occasional incredulous stare from those not particularly well-endowed with acting skills.  My own skills were honed as a child.  My mother spent hours making matching Mother and Daughter outfits which we wore to Church on Christmas Day.

I have been seeking gift inspiration from a few different sources.   In  Louder and Funnier, published in 1963,  P. G. Wodehouse wrote:

“The first rule in buying Christmas presents is to select something shiny.  If the chosen object is of leather, the leather must look as if it had been well greased; if of silver, it must gleam with the light that never was on sea or land.  This is because the wariest person will often mistake shininess for expensiveness.”

I don’t think that it has anything to do with price.  Christmas, before being called Christmas, was a celebration of Light.  Days were lengthening again just after the solstice.

The Christian Church decided that this pagan feast would henceforth celebrate the coming of the Light into the world in human form.  With its new name, Christmas continued to be related to shiny things that reflect the light.

Although we appear to have forgotten the origins of this very ancient feast, we still have memory glitches that throw up shiny things when we think of Christmas.  Unless you are a child.  Children rarely have glitches when it comes to Christmas.  The only word that their memories tend to throw up at this time of year is Presents.

In 1950, Marcelene Cox, writing in the Ladies’ Home Journal, put it this way:

“Our children await Christmas presents like politicians getting election returns; there’s the Uncle Fred precinct and the Aunt Ruth district still to come in.”

While looking for gift advice from those older and wiser than myself, I came across something which my gentlemen readers might find useful.  It’s from Oscar Wilde.  He wrote it in 1895, in An Ideal Husband:

“One should never give a woman anything she can’t wear in the evening.”

 That is so true.  And of course, if it’s Christmas, it must be shiny too.  Hint. Hint.

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