I am in a reading mood lately, but nothing fictional completely appealed to me, so I am rereading Agatha Christie’s autobiography. It’s an engrossing look into an author’s mind from her very first memories to the age of about 75. As I read I keep marking pages, because her comments are so fascinating in light of my own progress in becoming a writer. Also, a lot of her entries are fascinating just as a glimpse into an earlier age, before cars, before almost anything that we consider ‘modern’ or even ‘necessary’.
So I thought I would share some of the most interesting passages as I go along. First up is the quality of memory, and the things from childhood that stay with us.
I’ve never had children, but judging from my own memories, I think that spending a lot of money on expensive family trips and pricey gadgets or toys is, if not a huge mistake, at the very least NOT necessary for a childhood to be remembered as good or even great.
Agatha was a child when Queen Victoria had her Golden Jubilee celebration, and she was taken to see much of the hoopla surrounding it, but as she says, in reflecting on a letter from her father, who said that she would remember it all for the rest of her life:
“My father lacked the gift of prophecy, because I have forgotten it. How maddening children are! When I look back to the past, what do I remember? Silly little things about local sewing-women, the bread twists I made in the kitchen, the smell of Colonel F’s breath – and what do I forget? A spectacle that somebody paid a great deal of money for me to see and remember!”
And so it goes. I remember learning to tie a shoe, using my big brother’s enormous pointed-toe shoe as practice. I remember sitting on my dad’s back as he lay on the floor watching a hockey game on TV; how big and solid he felt, and how small I must have been! I remember how cold my hands got while making a snowman, snow crusted on my woolen mitts, pilling into icy balls; the odor of a wet canvas tent, hearing the tap-tap-tap of rain on the tent roof and the smell of the poplars at the beach once the rain had stopped; making drip castles in the sand; following a path through the woods and the giant brown jackrabbit that leaped up beside me in the brush and scared the heck out of me. I remember running so hard down a hill I didn’t think I’d ever catch my breath.
What do you remember? I’ll bet it’s not an expensive toy, or pricey trip to Disney World, unless it’s something minute you experienced while there, like the first taste of cotton candy, or how you fell and hurt your knee. That’s what kids are like. The big spectacle is lost on them; it’s the particular, the personal that captures them and will stay with them forever. And no adult can predict what that will be, because it’s as individual as the child.
I’ve lots more to share next time! But right now, I think I’ll get down to the business of writing.
PS: If anyone’s interested, I added a link in the Blogroll that will take you directly to my library at LibraryThing! I’ve added lots of books – I’m up to 84 so far with no end in site – the latest addition being Agatha Christie’s autobiography!