One of my best Christmas presents this year arrived in a tiny box. Not diamonds but something equally precious; a memory stick containing – appropriately – my father’s memoirs. After he wrote to me last summer about the experience of receiving his first ever typewriter (at the bottom of this post), I asked him to tell me more about his childhood and early life growing up in post-war Britain. His response was to send me a collection of notes, thoughts, lists and memories that he has been steadily capturing for the last ten years.
I am mentioned only once, in passing, and that makes it even more special because it is not a record of fatherhood or family per se so much as a story about the boy who became the man, who became my dad. I learned that I am almost grew up Canadian (we would have emigrated were it not for a familiarisation visit my parents spent in Hamilton during which it rained, incessantly, for ten days), that my Dad’s ambition at 3 was to be a ballet dancer, then at 10 to become a shopkeeper – he was cautioned by his mother not to be too aspirational – before eventually choosing medicine, after a giddy brush with amateur dramatics. it was, quite simply, a revelation.
My father began writing about his history on the fortieth anniversary of his own mother’s death, prompted by the sudden realisation that as an only child there would come a time when she existed in his mind alone; when he was, essentially, the keeper of her flame.
To help him continue his capturing of the past, he recently joined a course in memoir-writing, and told me last week about the others in his class; a recently widowed man who was determined to capture all his memories of his wife before the vividness faded; a lady who wanted to be able to tell her grandchildren all about growing up in poverty in the East End of London, a place they can barely imagine; and a man who had emigrated to England from the West Indies decades before and wanted to remember and share how different life was. The stories and motivations will, I think, be far more compelling than any course could itself be.
We’re a very bookish family, and my bedside table is usually piled high with novels, but I’ve gradually eroded my stack and am in search for something new; any recommendations of head-turningly good books? I’ve just finished (and loved) The Summer Book by Moomin author Tove Jansson (a Finnish classic, I think), and Ten Things I’ve Learned About Love, a first novel which I tossed into my supermarket trolley without any particular expectations but which was so beautiful it has stayed with me for days. All suggestions (and any genre) welcome…. I love discovering new authors.
Have a great rest of the week; we’re enjoying a brief flirtation with springtime and it’s brought a smile to everyone..