I am someone who looks back to my past more than I look towards my future. That’s normal right, given that we’ve physically been there and lived it. But when we think back, we do not see a clear image. The past is extremely foggy. The further back we travel, the more we fall off the time line. It feels like time ticks by faster than we can react. When we recall minor flashes of memories, some feel like it was just yesterday. But when we dig deeper into our childhood, it’s like an eternity long; as if it never happened. And the rest is history. I grew up with my parents constantly telling me how horrible my memory is. I remember essentially nothing of my childhood. But there are very specific moments that my mind decided to cherish. And these are only remembered as split seconds, a mere sentence. I remember them as just that. No matter how hard long ago they happened, it just won’t fade.
A few examples: I will always remember the first time my grandpa took me on a metro ride. I don’t know where we went, I just remember sitting there, staring at my reflection through the window. Other days, he bought ice cream for me at Laura Secord (Super Kids for the win, haha) And to this day, Laura Secord feels a bit like home. One night we watched a Chinese, black and white horror film. I forget the storyline, but I remember sleeping with all the lights on. We did many things together when I was about 5 years old, many that I don’t recall, but these are the specific things that have never left me. Although growing up, we still spend time together, everything that happens now is not nearly as meaningful as during that childhood time frame. I don’t know why.
My uncle Peter was also someone I was very fond of. I will never forget eating out at a former restaurant called Kenny Wong. Back in the days, they would often open up the dance floor and play music. Anyone is welcome to dance if they wish. My very first memory of my uncle was pulling him out to dance with me. I must have been around 4-5 years old. That one gesture formulated in me a perspective of him that cannot be faltered. Knowing my mature self however, he is not someone I would normally admire. Getting drunk and raging hell, betraying our entire family… but I do admire him and quite proud of it too. Why? Because of that one dance that just seems to consistently resurface. My impression of him, no matter who he is after that night, remains very solid. This is the power of one childhood memory on my life.
When I was in grade 3 at school, during recess time, I think I was eaves dropping in on a conversation between a student and a teacher. I don’t recall who they were, but what my mind chose to retain up to my present life is one simple sentence: “You don’t have to like someone, just don’t be mean.” Those exact words! And that has served as a self-reminder for the rest of my life. Even now, I base my behavior with others on this phrase. Had I first heard today, I would probably forget it by tomorrow…
It’s strange how some things we forget so fast, but other things, we can’t forget regardless of how hard we try. And memories don’t just stay there like a display. It really does play a significant role in shaping us. It can either serve as a corner stone in building us up, or a haunting devastation that will tear us down again and again. That is why I think childhood traumas are very real.Can they actually be completely overcome? I honestly don’t think so.
I think the memories that a child retain, at least for me, strikes deeper than we realize. It is so special in a way that is so pure. I cannot explain what sets it apart from recent memories. If an uncle were to dance with me now, it would mean nothing. If my grandpa bought me ice cream now, it would mean nothing. Well, “nothing” as in it would not be exceptional. But one event at the right time can make all the difference in a child’s life. Their initial impression of something holds very strong and difficult to change. There are many movies and books that I adored as a kid. Our innocence makes everything so enjoyable. Once, I wanted to re-read my favourite kid novel, “Where the Red Fern Grows”, but upon reading it a second time at an older age, it was so boring! But if I never did, I would still think it was the most awesome book ever, because that’s how I remember it. You never quite grow out of the wonderment you once experienced, even though in reality, it could have been quite lame. This is why a childhood life is so important; once maturity gets in the way, you lose that “magic”. I can only imagine growing up in one house, and you have this image of it being so big. Then there comes a time when you move into a new house, and after years, you go back and everything is so small. The image is ruined. I try to not revisit childhood places because I want to remember them as I left them.
So, I’m not sure why I wrote all this. I don’t really have a concluding statement to make. The world knows that I am not a “kid” person… But I guess my little epiphany is to never, ever underestimate how heavily a kind gesture, an ice cream cone, a saying, a kiss, a beating, a punishment, can impact/traumatize a young life and beyond.