The memory keeper

One of our sacred functions as mothers is to be our children’s memory keepers. To keep momentoes of their precious years which they are too young to remember fully themselves.

I realised this more fully when putting boxes away in the attic this weekend.

A little caterpillar vest with stains from newborn nappies, dyed sludge green in its first wash; pretty embroidered dresses that would fit a fairy; a red jumper for a two-year-old boy with an appliqued yellow digger. All so impossibly tiny. Now only appearing in photographs, no longer populating our washing line or laundry mountain.


And their paper trail of first artworks. Seeing scribbles evolve into circles through each subsequent drawing. Eyes appear, and arms and legs, then suns and grass, then first letters and attempts at name-writing, and then mummy and daddy, our house, then T Rexes, and knights with intricate chain mail.

Precious bits of material memory. The tangible fabric of days gone by. Of bodies that were smaller, hands less  able. Some of these will be passed on to them, to store in their own attics – testaments to their very own past lives. Some perhaps to grandchildren of the future. And some will be kept and stroked and loved all over by an older woman, with tears and smiles, as she casts back over her memory children long gone.

Living this life you do not notice the changes until you look back. Until you see what was, only then you can you really appreciate the miracle of what is now.

I put them up with my old University notes, love letters, photographs of a teenage girl with her school-friends, and my old school books and school photo which had, in turn, been kept by my mother for me.

It is a sacred role: to pass the material memories down the generations.

What treasures are you holding for your children? What special things have you kept that bring you to tears – of sadness or joy?

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