Us Europeans

Childhood memories

Southampton, UK (View on map)

Culture and traditions are handed over from generation to generation and the transmission usually starts at very young age. Childhood memories are therefore likely to be very culture-specific ? a good reason to harass some people with the following question: which is your first and/or best childhood memory?

Sarah (23) clearly remembers how she would wake up on Christmas Day and find presents at the end of her bed. She then ran off to her sisters and they would unpack the presents together before going to their parents` room to show what Santa Claus brought them. `My favourite gift was a squeezy, soft dog. I didn`t like it at first but it soon became my favourite toy. I lost it when I was 12. By the way, when I look at photos from that time, the thing doesn`t really look like a dog, more like a rabbit actually.` Sarah`s first childhood memory dates from when she was about 2 years old, when she was crawling underneath the fir trees in her parents` back garden. Favourite song that reminds her of earlier days: Kylie Minogue ? I should be so lucky.

Hobbies
Daniel (26) thinks back of Michael Jackson`s Bad and his chicken toy that laid the same egg every time he pushed the chicken`s head. When he was younger, Daniel used to build miniature airplanes but he gave that up to dedicate more time to music, which started to gain his interest during his teenage years. `I may start building airplanes by the time I get old and have plenty of time again. For now, I don`t miss it. I`m studying graphical design so I have plenty of opportunities to develop my creativity.

While quite some people admit having given up their childhood hobbies at one point, David (23) started out as a junior LEGO engineer and ended up studying architecture. `I`ve got one more year of studying left, before I can start a career in something that I`ve always worked on ? whatever the scale.` Like Sarah, David`s first memory is related to Christmas. `I remember going to a nativity play in primary school, I guess when I was about four years old. I don`t really know why I remember particularly that. Anyway, the best part of the memory is Santa Claus giving me Smarties.`

Childhood friends
When I met David, he is pushing his friend Matt`s (23) wheelchair. Matt tells me that the two have been friends since early childhood, when Matt`s parents moved to Portsmouth and met David`s parents in the local Baptist Church. `We went to the same school and still go to church every Sunday. And me being handicapped was something we just took for granted, I don`t think it makes our friendship different from other people`s friendships.`

Matt continues telling about his earliest memory which related to his first day at school. `I was four years old and the change from living at home and going to school had quite an impact on me. So many new faces and impressions. I remember it like photographs, combined with a feeling of fear and adventure. I relived the same feeling during my first day at university.`

Sarah (22) was best friends with the family dog, which was delivered at her parent`s house when she was only 18 months old. `His name was Max and I remember how he was rolled into our house in a small cage. He stayed for 15 years, and died 6 months after I had moved out.

Holidays
Paul`s (30) earliest and best childhood memories are no less than 12 years apart. `My first memory is not really a pleasant one. When I was three, my child go-car was stolen from our garden and my mum later found it back in the park, fully smashed. I was heartbroken and I think that up until today, I have not had any experiences as bad as that one. Which in essence means that my life has been quite alright ever since. My best memory is our 3-month family holiday to Thailand when I was 15 years old. Highlight was all five of us riding elephants in the forest.

Gavin (27) tells that the visits to his father felt like small holidays as well. `My parents divorced only just after I was born, and I only saw my dad during weekends. Which meant that we would always go and do fun things, whereas life with my mum just consisted of everyday stuff. When my father married another woman with children, I did not see my dad for about eight years, from the time I was 10 years old until 17. My first memory was cycling away on my baby bike when the garden gate had been left open, I don`t remember how old I was.`

Rochanne (20) used to live on the countryside in Cornwall and remembers the days out in the forest with her dog Sooke when she was around 8 years old. `And I often went horse riding and swimming, which I still do quite a bit nowadays. My first memory is walking around with my grandma. I was two at the time and she died shortly after we went for that walk.`

School and sports
Alex (25, photo) has good memories of the hot summer of 1995. `We found out about a swimming pool next to a hotel and were allowed to go swimming there every day after school. We did back flips and one friend almost drowned after swimming into the wall. It was not an official public swimming pool and there was no lifeguard so another friend needed to rescue him. The next summer was less hot and the hotel found out that they could also choose to charge us for our visits. We were not too bothered when we found a nearby river which was equally suitable for practising our back flips.`

Alex does not know whether his first memory is actually his own or whether it has been told so often that he remembers it from stories. `When I was two year old, we left for a camping holiday in Brittany, France. Apparently, I walked off on my rubber boots and went missing for a short time.`

Alex`s favourite subjects in school used to be geography and especially physical education: `I have been playing football for all my life, and that`s what everything else has always been organised around. I used to watch the TV program `Going Live` on Saturday mornings, but only until I left for the 10.30 AM football match.

Wondering what it`s like to be forced to wear school uniforms, I ask Alex whether he used to wear one when he was in school. He did, both in primary and in secondary school. `We wore wearing dark blue trousers, shirts and ties. We also had a jumper for autumn and winter. But that one didn`t fit well so I preferred not to wear it. Every school in the vicinity had their pupils wear uniforms so it was not something you questioned. `

Culture
Altogether, I don`t think today`s impression would make a big difference from those in most other Western European countries, with the exception of the way people celebrate Christmas. I will however keep the question in mind and see how similar or different Romanian childhood experiences are to the ones I collected today. Expect to read more about that in March!

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