When I woke up I had been dreaming about a wood.
It’s the wood I ran away into when I was five or so, from which my father rescued me in a thunder storm. And of course there is a whole backdrop to this – what wood? Why did I run away? Why do I remember the wood as benign though I was briefly in danger (a tree struck by lightening came down across the path I was happily running along, toward the beloved security of my father’s big figure)?
That made me think about the act of recreation that we call memory.
Memory censors, blocks, re-evaluates, recreates, and is highly selective about what and how it recalls..
I hate those endless press pictures of Ashya King on yet another trolley, in yet another country, surrounded by microphones and various kinds of camera. While his parents pursue something to save him, I wonder what the movement and disruption, the tension in the air, the different dislocations and reunions, the pressure and demand of all those strange bodies, is doing to him. That’s why none of the images are reproduced in this piece. I am not big on the reiteration of harm.
This is not about being “a sensitive little boy”. We are all sensitive in that way, sensitive or dead.
Never a Jackie Kennedy fan, I came to see her request that the plane to do a couple of extra circuits while she prinked, only to throw herself at the waiting press, bought time for her children to get off the same plane and go home quietly.
I liked her for that as for little else.
People depend on the resilience of their children. “He’ll forget” they say.
I hope so. But I have listened to too many who remember. They don’t want to
recall and the mind dresses the often unpleasant memory in strange symbols and
settings. But remember they do. And very often until you can unpick that, there isn’t much chance of moving forward.
An old psychiatrist and his wife wrote a book about dreams and I invited him/them to talk about it on air. He came and our first caller was an Irishwoman who recounted how, though she had long lived in London, every visit home produced great disquiet over several days, even if the visit itself had been uneventful, and the same dream. “ I have this suitcase with me, d’you see” she said. “It’s big and heavy but I know I cannot put it to down. I must take it with me.”
“Have you ever opened it?” asked my guest gently.
“Yes” she replied “and that’s the strangest thing. It’s full of rubbish, dirty old bits of paper, broken things, and yet I know I must take it with me. “
“If you could bring yourself to start picking that rubbish up and examining it” he said “ you will find memories of the past, the pain and difficulty, stuff you carry with you from home every time you visit, because you are the one that got away.”
But the pain of parenthood is that what you mean, what you intend, is not received by the child you mean it for – so well, oh heavens, with every good wish in the world – as the same. And the gap between what you mean or meant and what your child feels or felt is very often plugged by dismissal, denial, euphemism and fear.
Being a parent, a caring good enough parent (there are no perfect humans – children or parents) is the bravest thing you will ever do and that’s only something you reflect on when perhaps your more proactive parenting days are done – and then it is important that you do not opt out but remain, patient, polite, honest, caring – the role of the parent of adult children is unsung – and I do not mean only taking care of grandchildren.
And you will not remember everything and even if you remember a lot, they will be your memories, nobody else’s. The parents of sick children remember what they went though to try and find treatment, the child remembers differently. Neither memory is right nor wrong but memory is personal.