If I point a telescope into the deepest corners of my brain (in the same way we point telescopes at the farthest and oldest corners of the universe), the earliest childhood memory I can think of, is that of the death of my grandmother. I don’t remember that event as the death of my grandmother per se, but as the wailing and crying of my mother. You see my grandmother never lived with us, she lived in Kashmir, and I have no memories of her at all. But memories of her death are really the memories of my mother crying. I remember it being rainy that day. And her crying. And a tree in the garden. A little apple tree. Being smothered by the rain. That’s all I remember. Nothing else.
Another memory is of a dream. A dream in which my older brothers head was missing. Just the stump of his neck. Not sure what that’s about! I’ve never harboured any hatred or ill-will towards him. Maybe it wasn’t him? Maybe a movie I’d watched or some other horror? Who knows.
My strongest and most vivid early memory was a little later. I think I was 7 years old, and the moment is still fresh in my mind. It was the moment I realised – as a 7 year old – that my mum would die one day. That I would die one day. That everyone I knew would die one day. I remember it clearly because I cried my eyes out. The cold bony hand of mortality touched me that day. Before that day I’d presumably harboured some idea of immortality. Or, more likely, I hadn’t given the matter much thought. But on that day, due to some wonderful wiring of my neurones, my brain suddenly became aware of its own mortality and fragility and some innocence was lost. An acute and shocking awareness of my place in the scheme of things. A seminal moment? Perhaps. While my friends and siblings were presumably playing games, and fighting and dirtying their clothes in the mud, I was becoming painfully aware of my eventual death, and more importantly, the death of my mother. What a wretched and dark little philosopher I was! I remember the realisation welling up inside of me and the pressure of it being so great, and finally my stifled tears, and my eyes, a flood of tears behind them, until it all just came out, out of me. I was alone when it happened. I don’t know why it happened at that particular moment. Whether something had triggered it. All I remember was that there was no one around to comfort me. And even if my mother had been there, I doubt I’d been able to explain my feelings to her anyway. And would she have understood? Though I knew she loved me, she wasn’t, like most women of her ‘upbringing and culture’, the tender, expressive sort. So yes, I was going to die and so was she. I remember thinking how much I’d miss her when she was gone. I didn’t think how much older I’d be then. Presumably I still imagined myself being the same 7 year old brained person!
I was an introverted child I think. More happy and comfortable in the world of my own imagination. I was a serial fantasiser! I’d fantasise about all sorts of things: spaceships, superheroes, magic and fantasy, and the freckled neck and chest of my school headmistress. I remember being obsessed with the shape of her breasts underneath her tight jumper! Not obsessed in a sexually deviant way – I was only 7 years old! But I have vivid memories of school assemblies; full of memories of only her freckled slightly blushing neck and chest. I am still a serial fantasiser. Not of women’s chests! But of other things. Like, well…this is kinda embarrassing, well of saving the earth from a nasty alien invasion for example. Or, of saving a pretty girl from; not a monster, but from some other misery afflicting her! I have this urge to rescue girls from stuff! Silly and puerile really. Ahh, this is so embarrassing that I am blushing. I am only confessing this to an iPad! Please don’t get me wrong I’m not obsessed by women. I mean I have other fantasies too you know like winning the Noble Prize, or writing a brilliant piece of literature that changes the zeitgeist…and then suddenly dying afterwards. Oh yes I must die afterwards so that the only piece of work I have produced, becomes a one-off. No sequels so that it is endlessly studied and dissected and taught at school to children. I want to die at my brightest and not when I have withered into a feeble benign and withered memory of my once glorious supernova self.
What kind of work of literature? I have no idea! If I knew, wouldn’t I write it? As opposed to blogging about it?!
Just had a thought. Maybe blogging is a way for me not to write it? A way of procrastinating, and pushing it till later. I know I have it in me you know. I have lots in me (apart from the freckled chests of headmistresses). That 7 year old introvert has accumulated a lot of ‘material’ over the years. Great ideas and thoughts are not what you have learnt from others, but what you have thought of yourself. Ideas that are your own limbs, not someone else’s prosthetics. And because they are your own babies, you know them intimately. You can talk and write about them effortlessly. As effortlessly as breathing or walking.
It’s a lovely summery Saturday today. I am reading – sorry, re-reading a biography of the infant-terrible of French poetry: Arthur Rimbaud. Written by Graham Robb. I find Rimbaud (who was born in 1854) a fascinating creature. His life was a wonderful experiment in life. A new design for life.
Anyway, time to get outdoors and put the book away, and take a wander in the sunshine.
Ahh, the sunshine. Elixir and giver of life.