I like to think that my thought processes can be pretty random. I remember very clearly at the age of 13 my english teacher asking the class to write a ‘stream of consciousness’ right there and then. I can only assume that we were studying Catcher in the Rye at the time. That particular english teacher was one of those 1980’s cool teachers who wore dangly earrings, had mad mad mad almost mad hatter hair that she was constantly trying to control with her whole hand and a weird, contortion of long leg folding to sit on top of the desk rather than a chair. You see, streams of consciousness; I like the randomness of them and if you’ve read this or any other paragraph of my writing, you can see I’ve run with it…
But however random I get, it is nothing to the near lunacy of little ones. The nano-second it can take them from ‘I want a balloon’ to ‘ooh, that’s a corner of a table I’m not actually thinking about whilst searching for a twinkly thing I saw 2 seconds ago, but why does that woman have a… no she’s gone’. You get what I mean. And during these weird 10 second trains of thought, we, as parents can only look at them as their faces change; from excited, scared, perplexed and then through all of the expressions possible that will usually lead to a gormless stillness that will leave you, as the parent, wondering if they’ll ever be able to read, or write, or even remember their own name.
Creating the ‘This is my…’ range of books was really an answer to my need to capture that randomness. To keep hold of memories that come directly from them, those gormless, chubby faces with personalities forming and vehement opinions that can change and be just as forcefully argued in the opposite only minutes later.
And so the “This is my” books were created. Originally accompanied by a 35mm camera, the resultant photos were priceless. They were simple cameras, a little square window for a child to look through and a button to press to take the photo, followed by a pass to mum to wind on. My children would often not bother with the looking into the little square and the resultant images were perfect. A photo of his twin brother’s cheek and a bit of an eye; an image of a foot in a padder, now long gone; an unidentifiable mass of matter on a plastic plate. And that doesn’t even touch on the number of photos of my bum – what an eye opener that was! (I mean, because that’s all they got to see most of the day!).
The book would guide them through which photos to take – and would have questions for them to answer. And this is where the randomness would come to the fore. In their first books, I would have to do the writing, so I would ask them the questions. And they would answer with that honesty, integrity, seriousness and thoughtfulness that only a three year old can muster when asked ‘what did you like the most about your bed on holiday’.
And there I would sit, keeping a straight face to match theirs as they answered questions in their books. “What did you like about the bed” – answers would include “It was colourful” (and the photograph to accompany that answer shows the most migraine inducing swirl of psychedelia that I’m surprised I didn’t remember it). The proximity of the bed to a television would also be another excellent reason.
Their ‘favourite bit about the journey’ were invariably the ‘snack’ and the photograph of something that they really “like to eat on holiday” was often the breakfast pastry. And I love that.
Other questions in other books would induce brutally honest answers – no sensibilities when it came to naming favourite gifts at Christmas or on their birthdays. It was often the piece of plastic tat bought for them by a childless friend (the piece of plastic tat that I had already earmarked to be sent to the charity shop as soon as their backs were turned).
I love every photo and every answer and I have them all because I got to record it all in the books that I had created for just that purpose. Their photos were brilliant, their answers completely and utterly random and slightly insane, their funny spelling of words and their awkward less than perfect handwriting when they took over the filling out for themselves. Because keeping childhood memories alive and doing so effortlessly and with laughter is what they always meant to be. And I’m rather proud of how well they worked out.
I still look back on them, and those books are here with me, just waiting to be handed around on wedding days….
which will teach them for not consistently name checking my gift as their favourite each year.
All of the ‘This is my….’ memory books (including Day as a Bridesmaid, Day as Pageboy and other wedding titles as well as ‘This is my Baby Brother and This is my Baby Sister’ versions for siblings) will soon be available here on memorybooks.co.uk, but until then, they are readily available on our MotherShip site: 2littleboys.co.uk.
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