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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Little Golden Memories

When I was four, my Mum, Dad, and two younger sisters flew halfway across the world to Los Angeles to visit my Uncle and Aunty.  They had recently gotten married, but we had missed the wedding because my Mum was about eight months pregnant with my sister R. To this day, I am so impressed that my parents did this trip with three very young children. I have a vivid memory of being given a 'Little Golden Book' on the journey to Los Angeles.  It was called 'Theodore Mouse, Up in the Air.' The cabin was dark and I remember that all of the adults were asleep or at least resting, but I was wide awake.  The air hostess saw that I was awake and then went behind the curtain and reappeared with this book.  It tells the story of a little mouse called Theodore, who while hanging out his washing, is inspired by the sheets blowing in the wind and decides that he would like to try flying by using a sheet and the wind.  It works and he flys off and lands on a mountain and spends the night with the mountain mice.  They cook him comforting food, they sing around the campfire and tell scary and funny stories and then he sets off for home again the next morning.

I find it interesting that I remember the context of receiving this book so vividly and I like that there is a story to the story.  Our son is really enjoying this book at the moment and chose it as one of his bedtime stories (except he called it 'Theodore Mouse goes flying'!)  Other books I have clear memories of either receiving or reading are 'The BFG' by Roald Dahl, which I received for my eighth birthday; 'To Kill a Mockingbird', which I don't so much remember reading for the first time (I was about 15)  but I do clearly remember pulling it off the shelf in our tiny provincial library and holding it in my hands. 'Anna Karenina' by Leo Tolstoy is a book that conjures up images of one of my flats while I was studying at University in which I read it and 'The Children's Book' by A.S. Byatt anchors me to this moment, as I read it slowly (desperately trying to savour each word as I didn't want it to end) on the couch I am currently sitting on while I type out this post. This whole idea of context makes me think of the film 'Boyhood' and the way in which Richard Linklater crafted the life of Mason, the boy who the film centres on. What struck me about the film is the way in which it wasn't always the big events that made an impression on Mason, it was the small ones like being in the kitchen at the restaurant in which he worked when he was a teenager or driving in the car with his mum when he is about five years old.

Memory is an interesting thing.  Nostalgia is keeping sales of 'Little Golden Books' high, even after seventy two years after their launch in 1942 but I don't think it is just that. I am drawn to them when I see them as I love vintage books and vintage styled books but they do seem to have a timeless appeal. At the moment our two are really interested in books about animals, and there are many titles in the 'Little Golden Books' series that centre on animals.  The illustrations are appealing and the back cover in itself is interesting (or at is at least to an 19 month old).  Other favourites in our house at the moment are 'Scuppers the Sailor Dog' by the prolific and very talented Margaret Wise Brown published in 1953, which tells the story of a resourceful little dog who after being born at sea, is raised on land but knows he belongs on the sea. He sets off to find a boat, which he does but is then shipwrecked and in  Robinson Crusoe-eque manner he is resourceful and manages to create a home for himself out of debris on the beach and eventually repair his boat- a lesson in resourcefulness for us all.

Memory, nostalgia and identity are in a constant flux of ebb and flow. I'll leave you with this (modified) quote from Aldous Huxley, who said, "Every person's memory is their own private literature." X

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