Perception and emotion
Played on the screen of the heart
My youngest granddaughter was three at the weekend. Her parents hired a bouncy castle for the day; Imogen and her big sister dragged the Grandmasaurus and her companion into the depths of the pink inflatable to bounce, be chased and jumped upon. We still had time to sit quietly, with grass-stained feet, playing with the dinosaurs before the other children arrived. I wondered how much of the day Imogen would recall in later years. It set me off thinking… and remembering being three.
It is odd how memory works, sometimes defying logic. For well over half a century, I have remembered a TV programme, in great detail, from my very earliest years. It was one of the BBC’s ‘Watch with Mother‘ broadcasts and it was my favourite at the time. I just couldn’t remember much about it.
I started school when I was four; after that, ‘Watch with Mother‘ was no longer a part of my day, so I can date the memory fairly accurately. Occasionally, during bouts of childish illness ranging from tonsillitis to measles, I would stay with my great-grandparents, tucked up on the day bed beside the fire. Great Grandma would put on the television while she made lunch and let me watch without Mother. But I never saw that particular series again.
In after years, I described the show to my mum, hoping she would recall its name. I knew that it was about three friends… a hedgehog, a mouse and a rabbit. “Tales of the Riverbank,” she said. But I remembered that too… and it was not the same, it lacked the magic of my memories… and that in spite of the narration of Johnny Morris. The animals in ‘my’ show were puppets. Mother always insisted that I was remembering it wrong… that the animals were, in fact, real… that it was indeed Tales of the Riverbank… that the memories of a small child are far more likely to be wrong than those of an adult.
Because children tend to trust what their grown-ups tell them, I believed her, accepting her opinion as fact and, eventually, even allowing it to cast doubt on other very early memories. I probably was remembering things incorrectly… I was little more than a toddler, after all.
And then, today, the best part of sixty decades later, I typed ‘Watch with Mother‘ into the search bar. There they were… Rag, Tag and Bobtail, just as I remembered them… and that was the name of the series too. What is more, in the episode I found on Youtube, Tag, the mouse, is dowsing with a hazel twig. That sparked a whole host of other memories, of learning to dowse with my grandfather… though I usually used a pendulum or homemade rods cut from wire coathangers. And that, in turn, brought back a whole host of early memories from childhood.
There is no-one left with whom I can ‘fact-check’ these memories. In mind and heart, I see them clearly…and perhaps perception is more important than accuracy. Good or bad, how we remember an event, its emotional impact, and how we grow into the memory is what will affect our lives. I hope that, if she remembers nothing else about her third birthday, Imogen will never forget that she was surrounded by love.