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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memories are made of this

The Hungarian violinist Gyorgy Pauk was on "Desert Island Discs". By the time he was four both his parents had disappeared into labour camps, never to return. He said he had no memory of even a kiss from them. It was only when he said this that it struck me just how memorable even the most glancing flesh-on-flesh contacts can be. My parents have been gone a long time but if I close my eyes I can still remember the texture and the smell of my close encounters with them, most of them in early life. I can feel my mother's lips on my cheek and the proud weight of my father's hand on my knee as we travelled to his work. It's somehow more remarkable because I wasn't making any effort to remember at the time. Had I known, of course, I would have been concentrating.


  1. Wasn't that an unbearably sad moment? Like you, I can still feel my parents,and would do anything to get a big squeeze from my Dad as he said 'I LOVE you'. Any child who misses out on moments like that misses out on a lot.

  2. It's fourteen years to the day since my mother died, and I wish to God I could access memories or sensations as tangible as that. It seems to me that, the harder I lean on memories, the easier they crumble. Both my parents have been dead for a while now, and the memories I have of them are largely abstract: ever present, but nothing as clear as a kiss on the cheek or a hand on my knee. Mind you, stick on a Bruce Springsteen song, and she's right there in the room with me.

  3. Mine both went quite recently but the only really tangible thing I have in my memory are their voices.

  4. I was very close to my paternal grandma. When she died, in the mid 70s, my dad knew that a few years before, when I'd got my first cassette recorder, I'd caught her on tape (unawares) and did I still have it. I don't know who was more upset when I told him that I'd recorded Pick Of The Pops over it.