I thought that I would write another journal prompt-inspired post, this time based on a prompt from a book called 412 Journaling Exercises and Prompts for Personal Growth by Meredith Lane. I’ve actually already sort of used this prompt in my private diary in the past, but thought I’d also write about it on here, and the prompt goes as follows:
Describe your most cherished childhood memory.
When I was writing about this prompt in my diary, I found it more difficult than I would have thought it could be to think about the one, MOST cherished memory from my childhood. I could think of a lot of happy and pleasant and all sorts of positive moments from my childhood, but it wasn’t like right when I saw this question something would spring to my mind as being the MOST. I of course eventually did come up with something that felt like it could come up this criterion, but I assumed that the fact it took me so long was due to my brain being at fault, because apparently our brains are a lot better at retaining and remembering the yucky stuff that happened to us – provided it’s not so very yucky that the brain would rather get rid of it and suppress it – rather than the good stuff. Before I wrote this post, I decided to ask my Mum about her happy childhood memories. Partly because that’s what I very often do before or during writing posts like this, because we usually end up having long discussions on the topics of my posts and I end up seeing it from an additional angle, but also because I was just curious. My Mum has often told me that she feels like she doesn’t remember a whole lot out of her childhood and has a lot of gaps, and while I don’t think she would call her childhood unhappy and I don’t think one could call it so objectively, most of what she has shared with me about it sounds just a little bit unpleasant to me. The times in which her childhood happened to be – communism – her extreme timidity and anxiousness as a child, and her dad, who in all her stories, especially the ones she told me when I was a child, sounded extremely stern and even a bit scary to me – an ever-looming presence of someone who is physically present most of the time yet hardly speaking to his children at all, and if so, usually to scold or punish them. – It was all the more scary for me that he is so different now as a grandfather, and a better father to his adult children as well, and that extreme difference was unfathomable for me. So when I asked her this, she ended up having the same problem and couldn’t come up with anything specific for a long time. So I asked her whether she thinks it’s because she doesn’t have a lot of happy memories from her childhood. She said that no, it’s probably just that she doesn’t really dwell on her memories so much and has always lived in the moment for the most part, and also that while she has many nice memories from her childhood and remembers it fondly as a whole, she couldn’t really think of anything that would particularly stand out. So I told her that I had the same problem when trying to answer that question in my diary and that it took me a long time to come up with something, to which she reacted with: “Oh, but what sort of childhood you had, it was a nightmare!” Well, I don’t think so at all. I definitely couldn’t call it happy if I were to be truthful, but I think a nightmare would be not only a huge overstatement and taking all the good things for granted. And that was when it dawned on me that the reason why we find it so difficult to think about the best memories from our childhoods is exactly this – that our childhoods weren’t a nightmare. – If they were, it would be easier to think of the few situations that stood out as a lot better than what we’d be used to our life being like as a whole. From what I’ve noticed, people who have gone through extreme poverty, extreme trauma or other major adverse experiences in childhood, often tend to have a handful or even just one memory from their childhood that stands out in their minds as being a lot better than everything else what they’ve been used to. Having a full, warm meal, or someone treating them better than what they’re used to at home, or having a fun outing at school etc. For us, most people these are normal things! Still much appreciated, but absolutely normal. So even though we have many experiences of happy times in our childhood, they naturally don’t stand out so much, because it was normal to have a lot of yummy food, presents for every birthday, playing silly games etc. Etc. Whatever an average kid does. My Mum agreed with me and said that rather than having any particular memories that would stand out very much, when she looks back at her childhood she just collectively remembers all the fun she had with her siblings, the constant presence of her mum at home and how cosy it was, spending time with her best friend etc. Nothing spectacular. It’s quite similar for me, and I wonder how it is for you.
Nevertheless, as I said, I did manage to come up with a memory, well, a few memories, that I guess kind of do stand out, or at least based on some things I’ve later experienced and little cues I’ve had in relation to them I believe that they must really stand out for my subconscious for some reason, and in this post, I’ll reminisce a bit about them.
They are memories of the few times when I got to ride home from school in my Dad’s tanker lorry. That was not something that happened often or regularly, because generally tanker drivers are not supposed to have passengers, unless it’s a fellow driver and they work shifts. Or at least that’s the case with delivering fuel which is what my Dad does. Officially, anyone who is to ride a tanker has to go through some kind of training so that they’ll know what to do should there be an explosion or something. However, the hours and days of my Dad’s work were always rather unpredictable, and he couldn’t always organise it so that he’d be off work to pick me up from school together with Mum the, hm, conventional way. Especially if something unexpected came up like I was sick or whatever. And Mum was back then too chicken to drive four hours to my school and back on her own. So what they’d sometimes do was they’d take me from school a bit earlier when it fit Dad. Or other times Mum would ask someone from our extended family to go with her and drive, and people often very kindly did it. But there were a couple times when the most viable option was for Dad to take me in the lorry, when he happened to be working somewhere in the area or driving nearby anyway and could logistically squeeze in picking me up. I also think that the restrictions around that must have been a bit different when I was a young child, or perhaps for some reason there was a difference between how different companies where he worked handled it, because when Olek and me were little it would happen slightly more often that he would take us and/or Mum for rides when he had to go somewhere nearby and one time he even took Mum and Olek for quite a long trip.
I don’t remember now how many times exactly I rode with him from school in the lorry, maybe three or four, but each time it happened I remember being extremely excited and euphoric about it. In my mind, it had a whole lot of pros to it, though I’m pretty sure that if I had to ride back to school with him in the lorry, I wouldn’t have quite so exciting memories from it, as that would likely mean that we wouldn’t even be able to say goodbye to each other properly and he wouldn’t be able to stay there at all and would have to leave right away. As it was, it was absolutely thrilling. It was usually something that was organised last minute so was a total surprise for me, and while I generally am not a fan of surprises, I was always happy to hear about one like this. Most of the time, particularly if you left school for some official holiday break rather than for a weekend or some personal reasons, the whole procedure of leaving could take really long and I really didn’t like it. Sometimes there were parent-teacher meetings, or parent-group staff meetings or other stuff like that, sometimes if it was something like the end of school year or Christmas break or something like that there would be a school play, and loads of talking and peopling and what not. Especially that my Mum often did feel the need to talk with my staff or teachers a lot, even without a special opportunity, and it was very much mutual because most people really like my Mum and could talk for hours with her. But if I left with my Dad in his lorry, it didn’t matter if it was the end of a school year or whatever, my Dad had a schedule that he had to stick to, so I had to pack in advance, he would usually inform everyone, including myself, at very short notice that he’s going to pick me up and I was to be waiting for him and as soon as he arrived we’d leave. Even if he didn’t have to count his minutes at work, he values his time very much and is a rather impatient person, and he doesn’t have the gift of the gab like my Mum does, nor the gift to listen. And it was just so unusual. No other kid, at least of those that I knew, had a dad who would pick them up in a lorry. So I felt super proud.
The first time it happened, I was in the nursery/preschool/whatever you’d call it, so I could have been around six or seven (yes, that blind nursery worked a bit differently and children there were older than you’d normally expect in a nursery, otherwise you’d have to send three-year-olds to a boarding school 😀 ). I believe I had to have an endocrinologist’s appointment and the easier way for my parents to organise transportation home for me was for Dad to pick me up in the lorry on his way back from work, so he didn’t have any fuel in there anymore, as he was meant to go through Warsaw anyway and my school was near Warsaw. He was only able to do this at night though, so I was to wait for him to come. I was usually excited at the mere thought of going home, but being able to stay up very late (which was something I was very much used to doing at home but not really able to do at preschool) and then drive through half of the country in the middle of the night had me properly thrilled. As a kid, I really loved riding long distances, learning about names of different towns and villages, the funnier the better, and, most of all, finding out what different radio stations were out there in different parts of the country. I remember that it all felt very unusual, when I was allowed to stay up, even after our regular staff left and the nightshift lady came and all the other children fell asleep. I was quietly playing on my bed, with all my bags already packed, and listening to something on headphones and the wait felt really long, but at some point the nightshift lady came in and told me that my Dad had arrived. To my surprise, there was also some other guy there who turned out to be his colleague whom I didn’t know before, and I got a feeling that he ended up really liking me. I also remember that he gave me loads of oranges along the way and kept asking me if I wasn’t sleepy, as I suppose he found that weird that a kid my age wouldn’t be at such time. My Dad was driving, his colleague was sitting in the passenger seat, and I was on the bed. I kept chatting to them about all sorts of things that happened to me at school and whatever my weird Bibiel brain made up and they were laughing. At some point Dad told me that he had a surprise for me and gave me a chocolate bar called Jacek, this is a Polish chocolate bar which I believe is no longer even produced, but as far as I remember it was a type of nougat-flavoured bar. That was the first time I had it and before that I didn’t even know that such a chocolate bar called Jacek existed and after that I only had it twice. Anyway, those of you who know about my Jackophilia can probably imagine that my euphoria was sky high at that point. I was all like: “WOw, world, people, hear me! There’s a chocolate bar called Jacek, have you ever heard anything more interesting than this?!” At some point though I guess I did end up feeling sleepy ‘cause the next thing I remember my Dad’s colleague had magically disappeared and we were quite close to home. We arrived very early in the morning and Mum was still asleep. Dad told me that it’s a surprise for Mum and that she doesn’t know I’m coming, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t the case but he just wanted to make it fun or something. So he went to load our furnace and told me to ring the doorbell so that Mum would think I came home by myself, and initially she was indeed quite surprised to see me there.
The second time I don’t really remember much about, other than I rode with my Dad alone and I think I was in primary by then and I sat next to him for some part of the journey and we were listening to Radio Bis. One incident from that journey that I remember clearly was that at some point the police were checking Dad’s car and I had to hide under blankets and duvets so that they wouldn’t see me. I found that extremely exciting and fun, far more than my Dad for sure, and I remember that it reminded me of how my gran told me that her siblings hid her in some sort of a container full of potatoes during WWII when she was four so that a German soldier wouldn’t see her and when they ended up not seeing me I felt like some sort of great hero.
The third time happened much later, I think when I was in my early teens. I remember I was having a properly rotten time at school in all sorts of ways for several weeks as well as a lot of anxiety and when I was coming back to the boarding part, or however it’s called in English, after classes, and was thinking how could it would be if my Mum could make me a surprise and visit me this weekend or something. Well, then I had lunch, went to my room and was about to start doing my homework but looked at my phone before that and saw that I had several missed calls from Mum. When I called back she said that she and Dad are in his lorry and that I should pack my most essential things because they’d be for me shortly and take me home for the weekend. For a while I really couldn’t believe it. But they did come and I went home with them, despite there wasn’t really such need as there weren’t any holidays approaching and I didn’t have any pressing reason to come home like a medical appointment or something. That trip home was a bit less unusual and surreal because there was Mum, but still, I really enjoyed it as a whole.
And the last time that I remember riding back from school in Dad’s lorry was almmost at the end of my stay in that school, I guess I could be around sixteen or something. I can’t remember what was exactly the reason for that, but it had to be something important because I stayed home for a really long time. It was March-April time so it could be Easter, but our Easter breaks weren’t normally particularly long so perhaps I got sick or something, but I don’t remember getting sick during that break and I certainly wasn’t sick with anything when going home. I just remember that, again, I was having a really shitty day at school, though I don’t remember why exactly. I only know that there was some goalball tournament going on that day or other sport event (goalball is a team sport for the blind) which I didn’t take part in myself but everyone was watching it anyway, and I was quite bored and it was dragging on for ages, and I was making use of all that time by ruminating on whatever shitty stuff was going on. Then I come back and go with my life as normal and at some point when I was in my room talking to my roommate my Dad called me. It was rather unusual for him to call me on his own accord because it was me who had free unlimited calling time set up with him so me calling him paid off more, and we rarely talked in the middle of the day like that unless I was either really bored or had some difficult Geography assignment. So I answered, a little surprised, and he said he’s going to be here literally in five minutes so I better get ready. I was absolutely euphoric. I went to one of our group staff to share the good news and asked her to help me pack but she wouldn’t even believe me. 😀 But I somehow managed to convince her that I was not making it up so she helped me and as soon as I was packed, my Dad was waiting downstairs. AFter the boring and extremely understimulating morning at school, now I was all super giddy and jittery and extremely happy. I could sit next to my Dad high up in the lorry and we chatted about all sorts of stuff. It was already after our relationship has started gradually straining more and more so we weren’t getting along anymore as well as we did when I was younger, but we could still chat about a lot of stuff and still can despite the strain and stuff. I was at first a bit stressed when he told me that we’ll actually need to sleep in the lorry overnight, as I didn’t know how I’d manage with stuff like showering and the like, but in the end I decided, oh well, I don’t even have to do it, I’ll shower when I’ll get home. I would much rather go home straight away than sleep in the car and wait SO long to get to my beautiful little Bibiel room, but in a way sleeping there was also kind of exciting. Dad slept on the passenger’s seat and left his bed for me. But while his sleeping conditions were probably even less enviable, at least he was sleeping, because I guess my Dad can fall asleep anywhere if he’s sufficiently tired. I meanwhile, couldn’t sleep almost at all. I kept wondering how anyone can manage to sleep on such narrow, small bed, if I, being fairly small and thin myself, felt like I was being squeezed between the bed and the ceiling and could barely move comfortably. I wondered how my Dad’s current shift colleague, who is quite obese, can get in and out of here and doesn’t get stuck. All sorts of vehicles were either driving past us, or standing near us with their engines running and once in a while people would be yelling something to each other. And, of course, my Dad was snoring, as if he was competing with all those engines or something. I’ve always liked some background noise while sleeping, but perhaps not SO much. I was also stilll fulll of beans and excitement. So rather than sleeping, I was reading Emily of New Moon, or just thinking about all sorts of things and generally feeling quite happy about life at that very moment. I think I did eventually get some sleep but felt very zombified when Dad woke me up. Which, with help of a few coffees, didn’t last long. (Gosh, I wish I could still have a few coffees in the morning and feel normal afterwards, I miss coffee so much!) We had some quick breakfast and then drove homeward, but first Dad had to tank a barge (it’s entirely possible that I’m using wrong English words here in relation to the whole fuel delivery stuff btw, I’m clueless about it even in Polish). So once we got there, he took me inside of it, and I got to wait for him in a room while he was filling it up and what not. I had my Braille-Sense with me and was reading something on it, and one guy who was working on the barge came over and started chatting to me and wanted to know what this thing was and how it worked, so I kindly explained to him the workings of a Braille-Sense for like half an hour, surprised that he has so much time on his hands at work, and ever so slightly annoyed that he won’t leave me alone to read in peace. He seemed quite impressed though. And then when my Dad was done we drove to where Mum was supposed to pick us up and she picked us up and we rode home.
I also rode many more times in my Dad’s various lorries for much shorter distances, but still long enough to feel thrilling. Now however I haven’t done it in years, despite he sometimes asks me, I guess just for the sake of asking, whether I’d like to, when it’s possible for him to do so. But I never do it, as we no longer really have the sort of relationship we had when I was a small kid. Things have changed a lot, and both of us have changed a lot, and the prospect of it no longer feels exciting at all.
When thinking about home rides from school with my Dad, however, one more thing always springs to my mind, despite it has nothing to do with lorries, but is a nearly equally pleasant memory. Namely, there was one such time in our family history when my Dad came to take me home from school by train. Unfortunately I no longer remember why exactly he had to do it by train, why not by car. Perhaps it was broken or something? What I do know is that my Mum had to have kidney stones removed and was in hospital, and that was why she, or they both, couldn’t take me home. That was a year before Sofi was born so I must have been nine years old. Ironically, it was Mother’s Day, and our boarding school group staff was planning some sort of meeting with parents and some sort of Mother’s Day celebration I suppose as well. I knew about it in advance that my Dad would come for me on his own and I found the whole idea hilarious that he would be sitting there in a chair, eating cake (he hates cakes and almost everything sweet), watching some sort of Mummy’s Day play and listening to ALL the stuff our boarding school staff had to say, when normally he could barely keep track of in which grades me and Olek were and how old we were and stuff. 😀 Also the idea of my Dad picking me up on his own by train and me coming back home with him by train felt absolutely weird and kind of funny, as I’d always only seen him as the driver, the one who is in charge of things, and you’re hardly in charge of things on a train. So he came, and I’m pretty sure that his patience was put to a great test, because, at least as far as I can tell, that whole meeting thing was really long. Until the last minute, I – who, as you already know, also don’t like such long-winded stuff – was hoping for his temper to break and for him to have a mini meltdown like he often does when Mum’s around and sulkily grumpily leave with me because he ain’t got all day or at least hastily explain to someone that he has to go to be in time for his train, but no. He sat there like a proper daddy, or should we rather say mummy, perfectly calm and collected. I was really relieved when we finally got to go, and I’m sure so was he. The journey wasn’t as very exciting as all the lorry ones, but it was really fun nonetheless. I just remember feeling very excited and happy about it and that I could travel by train with Dad, but no clearer details really. The only thing I remember more clearly was that at some point there was a guy going round selling light beer and I asked my Dad if light beer is anything different than just beer and if not than why call it light beer, and we ended up having a whole discussion about beers, not just light beer, and how different beers are called, and then for some weird reasons we went on to cheeses and their names, but I have no recollection of how the transition from beers to cheeses took place. 😀 Sadly, Dad was not able to provide me much information on what the differences between all them cheeses were in taste.
So that’s it, these are my most cherished childhood memories, at least those that I remember and that came to my mind first.
How about yours? Do you have any that stand out, or is it also difficult for you to come up with anything? Do you agree with my theory that people with more or less normal or at least not extremely traumatic childhoods have less of an ability or perhaps need to cherish good childhood memories because they have loads of them compared with people with very traumatising childhoods? Would love to hear thoughts, and memories. 🙂