Magpies of the Mind
Some people collect stamps. Some collect money. Or badges, or posters, or books. Some people insist that collecting things is pointless and boring, and of course they would never do it themselves. They are wrong. We, all of us, collect one thing, the same thing: memories. We are all magpies of the mind. We can all dive into those memories, pools of knowledge, and watch the flood of recollections.
These are my memories, shining, sparkling. This is my flood, my (re)collection. Deep breath, and here's the plunge...
Rose Tinted Glasses
My Mum always says that I was a happy child, who never caused any trouble. The only reason I can find for her having such a rose-tinted view of my childhood, is that compared to my brother and sister, I was an angel. My brother was a little devil when he was younger, always getting into trouble like pulling up next-doors tulips, and falling off window sills, and though Katie, my sister, was certainly just as good a child as I was, by the time I was born, she was almost a teenager, so compared to her tantrums, mine must have paled into non-existence.
So consequently, mine and my Mothers view of my childhood are rather different. I can remember drawing on walls with my new set of crayons, which took hours for Mum to get out of the wallpaper. I had a set of very collectable Beatrixs Potter books, in a lovely little box with all the characters drawn on them, which I decided I would put milk and malteasers into, just to see what would happen.
My world was really very different from the one my Mum seems to want to remember. I think that's all part of being a Mother, though; always wanting to think only the best. I think by now, if I were her; I would have given up long ago...
The Bird's Kingdom
My first memory of my garden was of the bird table. It was a crudely cut piece of work, painted white so long ago that the paint crumbled off at the lightest touch, so that there were several spots where you could see the grain of the wood beneath.
But to me, this bird table was magnificent. It stood true and tall, leaning ever so slightly because of the uneven ground beneath it, a watch tower for the birds to come and survey their kingdom - it didn't occur to me at the time that the birds could fly, and therefore must have had much better vantage points elsewhere. But none of that mattered; I was a lowly servant, serving in a Kingdom I was unworthy of.
I think perhaps the reason it seemed so grand was because it was positioned to one side of the path that skirted around the rockery and rose-bed, which were half-hidden - at the height I was - by a little dip. This made it seem all the higher, and was also surrounded by the most beautiful flowers in the garden.
The Garden of Weeds
The rockery wasn't much of a rockery, really. That was just what mum called it. And I suppose it did have rocks in it, but mainly there were just flowers. Pretty flowers that enchanted me, climbing over the rocks. Flowers on all shapes, sizes and colours. Bluebells; tall, proud blue and purple ones, with bells for flowers, - sometimes I thought I could really hear them ring - lavender; clumps of purple, sweet smelling, and my favourite, the ones that got me into the most trouble: poppies. These sprang up everywhere, in places that seemed impossible, and I remember arguing with Mum for what seemed like hours about them.
'They're weeds!' She told me, exasperated, an emotion that seemed to go hand-in-hand with me being near. 'What are weeds?' I asked, in that annoying way children have of asking those questions that, no matter how hard you try, are impossible to answer. 'They're flowers growing in the wrong place.' She explained hesitantly. 'Ha! So they are flowers!' This to me, at the time, won the argument. Needless to say, Mum continued to pull them out of the ground anyway.
But I was still left with the bluebells and the lavender, and the roses and the tulips, and the daffodils and the sweet peas, and countless other flowers I had, and still have, no name for. We had a gardener, who came every Friday. His real name was Mr Beacham, but for some reason it was always Mr B for me. I don't even know if it was Mr B or Mr Bee, but I know that as a child I idolized him. I would follow him around, and he would give me jobs to do. But the thing I loved the most was when he told me stories. I was never squeamish, so whenever he dug up a worm he would tell me what type of worm it was. My favourite was the 'Purpleback-Rednose-Racer'. Once, while weeding around the tulips, we found a rock. But it was no ordinary rock, oh no! This was an ancient volcanic rock, very valuable, and barely ever seen around this part of the world. He told me that if I were to wash it under the tap, I would find that it glittered and changed colour from second to second. I tried it, and convinced myself it was true.
There was a bush, at the bottom of the garden. It was huge! It had thousands of places to hide in, and play in and mess around in. It was the perfect den. And I was the envy of all my friends for living near it. It was my favourite place in the garden, and I couldn't imagine life without it.
But the time came when I had to do more than just imagine. My best friend of the time, Ali, had come round to play, so of course we went straight outside to the den. But it wasn't there! All that was left of this wonderful hideaway was a stump and a pile of leaves. I was so upset. Mum couldn't understand why. But it had been MINE! Even my brother and sister didn't go there. It was all mine, and now it was gone...
In a futile attempt to calm me down, Mum told me that I shouldn't worry, as it would grow back soon, and I would be able to play in it again.
It never did grow back. Even to this day, there is just a stump, with a few sad branches, and a few curled-up green leaves, still clinging on to life. It'll never be the same again...
My Sardine Christmas
I have always been proudly aware that I have a huge and eccentric family. Christmas seems to be that time of the year when the fact is highlighted, not always in a good way, but always in style!
Every Christmas, my entire family seems to descend upon our house, every single year, and I don't think Mum has invited anyone once.
So, for just under a week, our house is home to just under twenty people (not counting the pets!). Feeding all these people is a task that I am glad that, as yet, I don't have to do much about. But when out of the twenty people, four are vegetarians; one won't eat poultry (yes, that means Christmas turkey! My Dad, ladies and gentlemen...); and two are allergic to wheat, it's no wonder Mum gets stressed. It's strange how blissfully unaware of all this I used to be, Christmas used to be the single most exciting thing all year. It still is; it just happens to be the single most stressful event of the year, too.
Whenever I tell people what we do for Christmas, with all the people in one place, they all seem to say the same thing: 'Gosh, you must be packed like sardines!'
I have so many memories of Christmas, they all seem to merge into one glimmering, shimmering idea... It's all just us being together having fun. Being an eccentric family together.
At night, just before we all went to sleep (me and my three cousins closest to my age) Uncle Ian would always come in and tell us a story. He was a fantastic story teller, one of those rare breed who can actually weave a story out of nothing, out of air. He let us make up the characters, one from each of us, and then began the telling. Once he made up an Epic Christmas Story, it took him at least three nights to tell!
Every night, me and Emi, my cousin, would wish with all our might that it would snow. I can't remember it actually happening on Christmas day yet, but one day, it's just got to. You can't wish that hard every year for nothing. One day we will have our White Sardine Christmas...
Only the Beginning
These are my memories. You've taken the plunge with me. But this is only a trickle of a stream, where one day there will be a mighty ocean. I will keep collecting. And so will you. We magpies will just keep searching for shiny things. That is human nature. This is just the beginning...