Earliest memories

People sometimes ask me what my earliest childhood memory was. Apart from noting (to myself) the redundancy of the word “childhood” in their question, I struggle to answer.

I don’t know if my mind works differently to those of others, but my memories and childhood photographs are inextricably linked. There is a picture of me, stark-bollock naked (calm down, ladies), pushing my toy bus round the back of the garage. I am unsure whether I remember the event (for event is the right description for such an activity), or whether I remember the photo. The same is true for countless others.

That said, thinking about the question the other night over a curry and a couple of beers with my brother, I think I happened upon a definitive memory. At least, it will remain the definitive memory until someone convinces me otherwise.

I was in Mrs. Page’s class (4–5). I was sitting at a grey, trapezium-shaped desk, one of the ones so beautifully shaped so as to allow for myriad table layouts. In front of me, was a huge piece of card, folded in two, sitting upright on the desk, the V of its fold allowing it to stand. It was a formal piece of teaching equipment as opposed to something I’d thrown together. Its branding was orange. If I had to estimate its hugeness, I’d say it was the size of an open broadsheet newspaper. Yet I expect that it was actually smaller than a tabloid, such do our minds play tricks on us.

On the inside walls of the V, there were small cardboard pockets, each labelled with a word and each containing small cards displaying that word: and, the, a, in, on, cat, dog, hat. You get the picture.

And we used the cards to make sentences, pulling them out of their pockets and moving them around on the desk until the sentence made sense.

When we were done, we put the cards back in their respective pockets and folded the equipment away.

I remember this fondly. I don’t know whether it’s a memory of a specific lesson, or one built up over and reflective of a number of weeks. But I’m sure it’s a memory as I don’t remember seeing any associated photos.

My daughter starts school tomorrow, her 4–5 year. (The terms “prep” and “reception” are still anathemas to me.) I hope her memories become stronger than mine have proven to be. Whatever her own memories, mine of tomorrow will be strong, of that I’m sure.


2 Responses to “Earliest memories”

  1. Mum on September 6th, 2011 22:36

    I remember your very first week at school. The older children started the first week back after Summer, then the middle aged children, then the youngest, of which you were one! You had a week at school and in those days in Halifax we had a September Break, which happened after your first week at school. You thought that school days were a week on and then a week off! Bless!

  2. Greg on September 11th, 2011 22:05

    Ah, I r member these too! They were definitely orange and I believe called something like ‘breakaway’?

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