28 days later – thinking about memories and materiality

Groningen 365 28

Originally uploaded by girlwithtrowel.

I’m having a bit of a funny day- a few days of feeling on top of the world, and then a bit of a fizzle. I have to remind myself that this is OK! It is allowed to miss people and also, that back home, I wasn’t 100% shiny all the time either, so the odd blue day here and there is nothing to panic about. I’ve just realised, uploading the picture for today that I’ve been here a month (calendrical and lunar, seeing as I left in February!). It’s been at the back of my mind all day so I guess it might explain my mood a bit.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about how important memory is to me. In my family, we tell stories. Communal reminiscence is a big part of family get-togethers. I suspect it is for a lot of other people too… ‘Do you remember when you’ … followed by some amusing/embarrassing anecdote. My mum is very fond of recalling an adamant argument we had when I was about 3 that a tutu was not, in my opinion, a tutu, but a ballet-dress. It’s always jarring to me when memories I hold very close are not remembered in the same way, or at all by other people. I have a very distinct memory of going hill walking with my dad, and my older cousin Ben, both of whom I had massive hero complexes about. I was seven, and we were going through a boggy patch where it felt like some of the tussocks were nearly as big as me. I was struggling a bit, bringing up the rear, and I heard Ben ask my dad if he thought I was OK, and could keep up. Dad didn’t think I could hear, but I heard him say ‘she’s fine, she just needs a bit of encouraging now and then’. He turned, and in a voice designed to carry said ‘Come on love, you’re doing great’. It has stayed with me for years, and helped me through some pretty serious crises- knowing that I might need a bit of cheering-along, but essentially, that he knows I’ll be fine. He doesn’t remember this at all. It was a shock, at first, upsetting, to know that this moment I had held very close for a long time wasn’t a big deal to him, but nowadays I take comfort from that. It wasn’t a big deal. He had faith, he knew I’d cope, so much so that it wasn’t a big thing for him to say it, it was something he took for granted.

People who reads these notes probably gather that I love my dad a lot. I do. I think we are very close; we always have been. But I love my Mum just as much. I don’t talk about her in the same ways, and I think that does her a disservice. I once tried to explain the enormity of the influence she has had on my life and the person I am, and I’ve even done it in an academic journal. My memories of her, the treasured ones, are much more visceral. I love her smell. I love how it feels to be hugged by her. I love knowing deep down in my soul that she honestly believes me and my wonderful brother are two of the very best things her and my dad have ever done. I can’t pin those down to specific moments; her love for me is written in who I am. When I left for the Netherlands, she made me a present, but made me promise not to open it until I was on the plane. It was a picture of Castle Tioram, in  Knoydart, a place which has very special memories for both of us, from my childhood holidays and hers. We both want our ashes scattered there. She said I needed some mountains to take to the Netherlands with me! There are so many little things, that would take a lifetime of being loved by her to truly understand.

I don’t know quite where all this is coming from! Sorry if it’s a bit too personal for some- I guess if you don’t like it, move on!

So, today’s picture. I wanted to talk about my Mum and Dad because I suddenly realised that I don’t wear anything, not habitually, that makes them present with me. I carry them around inside, instead. I don’t need something external; they are, in a lot of ways, the foundations of who I am. Today’s picture is of the jewellery I always wear, unless something like pesky mag survey gets in the way, and even then it is never far away. I don’t care that silver & gold don’t match. I don’t care that the three pendants look out of place together.

The diamond and gold ring is my great-grandmothers engagement ring. It must be about 100 years old. I’m not sure of the exact provenance but it might be American. The setting is really unusual and always draws remarks. My Grandmother (on my Dad’s side) passed it down to me. When M and I first lived together, we got engaged. We’ll never get married, but making a statement of permanence felt important- we were only 18, fresh out of school and lots of people were worried we would miss out on things, but we are still here 13 years later. Getting engaged, before the Victorians, was good enough to live together, good enough for kids to be legitimate and for the relationship to have standing, so we decided it was good enough for us. I feel very odd if I am not wearing it. It feels like a part of me is missing. It’s about me and Matt, but also my Grandmother, and her Mum. A connection to the past.

The next two are new, and don’t quite feel part of me in the same way, but I hope that they will one day. I’m too scared of loosing them still, to wear them all the time, but I am trying to be brave x

The ring with 3 stones was a leaving gift from Cat. I love the colours and the shapes. It makes me think of her- the purples and greens are colours I associate her with. It’s not been here that long, but I suspect it will start to feel part of me too. She never needs to worry about me forgetting her though- we have Ohana, and nothing breaks that.

The ring with one stone, bright turquoise, is a gift from my friend Kae and it’s very special as it was originally acquired with the intent of being a ‘mentors gift’ to people who chose to study medieval arts with her. It’s to remind me to have faith in myself, and it seems to be working!

The necklace is actually three. The chain, and the green stone set in a teardrop were handmade on the Isle of Wight, the place I grew up, itched to be free of and now yearn to return to. It was chosen by my two very best friends growing up, Jess and Helen, for my 18th birthday present. I think about them often, and wearing it reminds me of the person I was then, and the person I hoped I would become. I love them both. We might go months or even years without seeing each other but we start again where we left off.

The cat is my Bast. She looks out for me, and was my 18th birthday present from M, who has always seen me as somewhat feline. He has a slightly different one from me, that he wears all the time too. It’s funny, I think of myself as a graceless lump, but he sees a cat? I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and she does look after me and brings me luck. A talisman of sorts.

The teeny stone in silver was a parting gift from Sarah B. We’ve been through a lot together in the course of our more-than-a-decade friendship. It hurt to leave, but this way she knows I’m coming back, and we’re still connected.

Lola, you should all be familiar with. Stu and Theresa, the other two very important people in my life (I was honoured to be maid of honour at their wedding!) gave her to me when I started my PhD and was away from home a lot for the first time. She’s my travelling buddy, and I don’t go anywhere overnight without her! She has her own Flickr gallery, where you’ll see she’s been to some pretty awesome archaeology. She reminds me that there are two people who love me for exactly who I am, and know that I often need hugs.

So, enough with the fluffy! I am off to do some archaeology related reading.

3 thoughts on “28 days later – thinking about memories and materiality

  1. Okay, I remember the day and the route we took and the stag that we almost fell over and it is altogether likely that I said what you recall. I, however, can’t remember and I can’t understand why my failure to remember has caused you distress. It is likely that (because of your age) your older cousin was checking out with me that you would be okay- the terrain was reasonably high and wild and pathless and I was probably trying to reassure him that he needn’t be concerned- adding the encouragement bit because I knew that you do respond to gentle encouragement. For me this wasn’t either earth-shattering or out of the ordinary, I wasn’t saying anything particularly insightful although I wasn’t aware that you could hear.
    So, you’re right- it wasn’t a big deal but thinking about it a bit more makes me think that it was probably shorthand for a whole range of other stuff about wanting to expose you to challenges and to try and measure how much was appropriate and stopping at the point where encouragement becomes coercion- and realising that I hadn’t quite got that right on a previous walk up a mountain.

    • I remember the stag too! He’s in my list poem. Lots of that day has stayed but this bit in particular. I think it’s interesting, looking back, how much I read into it. Also, I need to correct myself. I was ten on this walk. The other walk you mention was when I was seven. We have really different memories of that too- I don’t remember being scared because I was with you. I remember the lochs at the top, and the big chunk of quartz we brought back, and leaving our note at the cairn. I remember goonie birding and you explaining about scree, but I don’t remember being worried, or that you were. The moment with the stag was just amazing though!

      • Oh, and I think it upset me when I first realised because for a very long time I /had/ seen it as something profound, an important insight into my character. That it wasn’t was a bit jarring, but it is fine now!

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