View Full Version : The Courtesies of Age

Amy Gallow
January 5th, 2010, 03:34 AM
My mother died at 96 in the full possession of her faculties. A condition we sometimes questioned when she claimed to recall personal events from before the beginning of World War I with complete clarity. She was six when the war began and none of her children could replicate the feat of recalling their own childhood at the same age, so we tended to smile and not disagree.
We are in the throes of building cubby (play) houses for our grandchildren at the moment and reducing the cost by using recycled materials. I was knocking out the dents and flattening the nail holes in some second-hand corrugated iron when a memory of startling clarity arose of my father performing the same task.
It was wartime and he was building a chook-house on a fifty-two acre property we rented at the time on the outer fringe of Melbourne and I could "see" the rusty ball-pean hammer he used, with its improvised handle made from the branch of a gum tree and the doubting look on my mother's face as she watched him work and smoked a precious cigarette.
A skilled milling machinist, working shift-work manufacturing parts for our Beaufort Bombers, he only came home during the longer change-over of shifts every second and third weeks. I could smell the the cutting compound used in machining that always clung to him and see the thin, hand-rolled cigarette drooping at one corner of his mouth.
I've tried to use logic to identify the date and the closest I can come is the Xmas school holidays of 1943, during which I turned six.
If my mother were still alive, I would have to apologize.

January 5th, 2010, 06:25 AM
I have a memory of that sort of age we moved from Newcastle to Yorkshire and i clearly remember looking at all the removal van we passed on our way south in my uncles car, to see if we could see my parents.

Amy Gallow
January 5th, 2010, 08:29 AM
Hi Hollie,
It was the clarity of the memory that struck me. I have all sorts of memories of my childhood, some I think were things I was told, others have a distance that renders them vague. This one flooded me with sharp, clear, pictures, coming out of the blue and feeling so immediate I could almost taste the dry heat of the day and the smell of the two cigarettes.

January 5th, 2010, 01:00 PM
yes i remember everything the colour of the car the horrible leathery seats and getting excited every time we saw a removal van.

the strange thing is that is all i remember of the day and from what i have been told when we actually did get to the 'new house' we got even more excitable because it was the first time we would have a bed room each. and that is a big thing to kids of 6 and 4

Amy Gallow
January 5th, 2010, 05:51 PM
Like you, my flash of memory came in isolation, there was no no date, no location, initially, just a startlingly clear recollection of a moment. It was only afterwards that I identified the time and place and nothing connects it to what went before or after.
I found it fascinating because it allowed me to reconstruct the period, not as clearly as the moment of memory, but with understanding that I couldn't have had then.
It allowed me to understand my mother's words about her memories better than I did at the time she said them as I don't think she ever analyzed her memories in the same way, content to enjoy them for themselves.

January 5th, 2010, 06:08 PM
my nan talks about growing up in Wales. I always love listening to her as other then me and my brother she is the only one who grow up in countryside the rest of the family live in citys.

Nobody else believes her stories but always saying she doesn't know what she is talking about. but i have never questioned them.

I don't get to see her much any more she lives to far away and she had to be moved into a nursing home.

Amy Gallow
January 5th, 2010, 08:27 PM
I don't think any of us doubted the veracity of Mum's memories. We just thought that they were secondary memories, like yours about the excitement you felt in getting separate rooms.
We have an aunt who turned 103 on January 3rd. Physically frail, she recognizes people instantly, even those she hasn't seen for months, and can discuss their families quite coherently.
She is a source of comfort to me. On her example, I can expect another thirty-one years of productive writing.