Saturday, 20 June 2009

How I terrified my parents

Memory is a funny thing. If you take away the fake memories that are tied to photographs and videos, there are all sorts of strange snippets and cameo moments. When I was at Lancaster University, as a group of postgraduates, we discovered that the University would give a small lump some of money to any new student society. So we set up BOPOGS - the Bowland [College] Postgraduate Society, with the sole intent of spending the startup funds on having a good time.

One of our investments was a rail trip to Scotland and I can only remember two things, each a cameo moment. The first is sitting on a seaside wall, eating some of the best fish and chips I've ever had (it's always better at the seaside). The second was the train, on the way back, passing a gypsy encampment complete with horse drawn carriages and open fires - it was an illustration out of an Enid Blyton book, and it was there and then it was gone for ever.

But the cameo moment that inspired this post was the day I put a look of sheer horror on my parents' faces, totally unaware of what I was doing. I was ten and had been playing out at the front of the house. I fell off our front wall and hurt my arm a bit, so went in for a touch of sympathy - but wasn't particularly in pain.

Before I could say anything, I could see from the look on their faces that I had done something terrible, and that moment was burned into my memory. They've since told me how they felt. As I walked through the door, it was obvious I had broken my arm - it was hanging at an impossible angle. So some concern, yes, but why the horror? When my father was six, he broke his arm. It never mended. For the rest of his life it needed support. They were terrified that my arm would be the same - something that never occurred to me at the time. I was blithely ignorant (and probably just as well).

It makes me wonder, sometimes, what cameo moments we're leaving for our own children.

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