Saturday, May 18, 2019

Yellow skirt

I often wonder what the grandchildren will remember of their childhoods. Particularly, in my solipsistic way, I wonder what they'll remember of their time with us. Grandson and Biggest Granddaughter spend a lot of time in our house so I would hope they'd remember quite a bit - they're now 6 and nearly 8. But one of my grandmothers left Edinburgh when I was 5 (I think) and I remember nothing at all of her living here except being at the foot of her stairs, which were quite interesting. (Our house didn't have stairs.) Do I really remember this or am I imagining it?

Memory is so odd. We all remember lots of things that we wouldn't think worth putting in a memoir - I remember getting a new school uniform cardigan and quite looking forward to going to school, wearing it. Why do I remember that? It doesn't seem very interesting. I also remember sitting on the top of a bus at Jock's Lodge and looking across at the people on the top of a bus waiting at the traffic lights beside us and thinking: I must remember this when I'm older. I wish I'd made more effort to fix in my mind more significant moments.

The other day, Biggest Granddaughter and I were discussing scissors with zig-zaggy edges. I told her that they were called pinking shears, and also that the flowers called pinks were called that because of their zig-zaggy petals, not because they were pink. (Always the teacher...) And then suddenly, from the very depths of my memory, I thought about a play - a musical play, I think - that my elder brother was in at school when he was a small boy. I remember going to it. I think it was just in a classroom rather than a big hall - but I might be wrong. Perhaps we were just in the classroom to get him dressed for the show. Anyway, it was a boys' school so my brother - who must have been about 7 or 8 - was in the chorus as a girl. He wore a yellow skirt - and here's the relevant bit - with a pinked, rather than sewn, hem. He also had a yellow mob cap, also with a pinked edge, and I think there was an actual pink-coloured bow on it. Was there also a pink bow on the skirt? I think some of the other boys had pink skirts with yellow decoration. Seems like cruelty to small boys but I don't remember my brother complaining.

I believe my mother had to make this costume, with material supplied by the school. I don't know whether the pinking was just her short-cut or part of the brief. Anyway, I think it may have ended up in my dressing-up box, where I wore it for a few years.

I hadn't thought of this for ... half a century? What else is lurking there in the recesses of my mind, ready to pop up? And in yours?


  1. Memory is fascinating; it seems like it's a jigsaw puzzle and we only remember random pieces of it. I was 5 when my maternal grandmother died, and I don't have many memories of her. I remember her yelling at grandpa, who deserved it, I'm sure!

  2. As I age, it's very interesting to reach far back into my memory. My grandmother was from Belguim and spoke very little English. I remember sitting on her knee and being bounced as she sang a child's nursery song in Flemish. She was born in 1883. Patty McDonald

  3. I remember many things from my childhood, but not the important ones I would like to remember. But they are a joy. I spend a lot of time with my grandchildren, but have no idea what they will recall...

  4. I understood that you lay down a memory when there is a strong emotion attached to the occasion. It seems true for me,

    1. I don't feel that the yellow skirt episode was particularly emotional. But maybe it was my first experience of my brother playing a role?

  5. I was just writing about this today - the fact that once you start thinking back in detail, subconscious memories pop up that have squirrelled themselves away but only need a little stirring ....