For the sake of simplicity for my first proper blog post, I thought a sensible place to start might be my own earliest memories. I have quite a few ‘sensory’ memories from being really tiny – I think I remember the feeling of getting my finger stuck in between two splintering floorboards while wearing pink corduroy dungarees as a baby… but, as strong as this memory seems, I’m not entirely convinced i’m not just extrapolating from photographs. I don’t feel too worried about being delusional though, the brain confusing an imagined event with actual memory is a phenomenon so common it has it’s own word – confabulation. I may come back to this in a future post, as it is so habitual, yet the consequences so potentially MASSIVE, that it’s absolutely mind blowing.
For me though, these baby memories are more like a single page of post-it note flickbook – as nice as these sensory memories are, with only a millisecond long, flashing image without anything either side, it’s hard to extricate any real, juicy meaning. What I do find interesting, is recollecting those first instances of a particularly strong feeling or emotion as a child.
One of my most potent memories is from when I was 4 years old and experienced, what I believe, was my first encounter with embarrassment. Like, real, toe curling, still-cringe-today mortification. We were sitting cross legged on the carpet in Reception Class practicing hymns for the Easter Assembly which was creeping closer by the day. I went to a Roman Catholic primary school, so religion-based assemblies were quite the big deal… memorising the lyrics and melodies was, of course, imperative for an occasion as important as Jesus rising from the dead. Every couple of days we would gather on the carpet, little knees knocking together, and practice various elements of the event. On this particular day, I was sitting right at the back of the carpet, I distinctly remember leaning my back uncomfortably on a skinny table leg – for some reason it was better to be uncomfortably leaning than not leaning at all. The hymn being practised at that moment is one that, despite many attempts to Google it, disappears like smoke when my memory tries to snatch it… the vague sense of it lingers though – it was incredibly sombre, dripping with morbid imagery only good old Catholics would think totally normal to impose on 4 year olds. I absolutely loved it though. I basked in the graphic lyrics that tempted my imagination to visualise it so vividly – Jesus being betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Judas you horrible, scary man!), being marched up the hills of Calvary in front of a jeering crowd (why did nobody stop them!?) and finally having nails driven through his bloody palms at Golgotha, Place of the Skulls. Looking back, the fact I relished this dour hymn over my peers’ favourite ‘Shine Jesus Shine’, says a lot and doesn’t hugely surprise me given my penchant for the grim and gothic I still have today.
So I sat leaning nonchalantly on the table leg at the back of the carpet singing – my mind deep in crowns of thorns and crucifixes – and I yawned. A huge, jaw popping, eye watering, yawn. At the exact same moment my mouth snapped shut, Miriam Sykes flashed her white-blonde head around to face me, I assume, to say something. As my eyes readjusted their watery focus, her mouth slipped from poised open into a smirk almost in slow motion, eyes wide with opportunity, mouth curled and twitching.
‘Are you crying because the Romans killed Jesus?’
It came out as a hissed whisper. Her face flicked away before she even saw the alarmed shake of my head. She leaned to her left and cupped her right hand around her mouth and the boy’s ear, ‘Danielle is crying because the Roman’s killed Jesus’. He shot me a furtive glance, brow furrowed. She leaned to her right and cupped her left hand around the girls ear, ‘Danielle is crying because the Roman’s killed Jesus.’. I saw the mistruth ripple through the little crowd on the carpet as I stifled another yawn and my vision swam as my eyes filled with water again. Faces began to dart around to face me as I frantically wiped away my sticky yawn-tears with the back of my hand. The confused curiousity of St Oswald’s Reception Class was almost instantly replaced by surprised hilarity. As my friends muffled their guffaws to a (i’m sure very moving) song of Jesus’ crucifixion, I experienced the prickly burn of embarrassment sprawl across my chest, crawl up my neck and blossom across my tingling cheeks. The giggles only stopped when the teacher ceased playing the piano and clapped our attention back to the front of the room.
So Miriam, if a fuzzy childhood memory ever tells you that Danielle Giddins once cried because she was so distraught at the thought of Jesus being killed by the Roman’s, actually, I just yawned.