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The Memories
By Ann Richardson


The photographs were passed around; we had to pick one to write about. 'A writing exercise', said Celia, our group leader. For some strange reason I was drawn to a particular photo, it was of a small boy and girl huddled together. I automatically chose it.

As soon as I get home I take it out of my bag and look at it. My mind guessing as to who they may be. Are they brother and sister; my curiosity gets the better of me? Judging by their clothes they appear to be war babies. I say war babies; in fact the girl appears to be four years old and the boy aged three. If I am correct in my assumption they would be the same age as I, were they still alive. The longer I look at the photograph the more fascinated I become. They seem well nourished, and yet a kind of haunting look is in their eyes, could it be they have already experienced the grim reality of war.

With the photograph still in my hand I go upstairs, and pull the battered old suitcase from underneath the bed. It contains all our family photographs Mam saved over the years and left to me when she died. I open it. I place the photograph of the two children carefully on the bed, freeing my hands to lovingly scramble over the vast amount of photos in the case. At last I find it, a picture of myself at four years old, not dissimilar to the one I had been looking at. Sprawling on top of the bed I again hold the picture of the supposed brother and sister. Who are you, where are you now, are you still alive, did you do all the things I did as a child? I close my eyes and memories that have lain dormant in my mind for so long, suddenly appear.

Oh there I am playing with my two balls on the wall, yes there's all the mams holding the big skipping rope for us kids to jump in. 'Stop it John, you're cheating again, I'm playing marbles no more with you', I say chuckling. There we all are, parents and kids in the back lane, it's Guy Fawkes Night. We have our long forks roasting our potatoes while the fireworks are being set off.

Ah, I'm huddled in bed crying, mam and dad are arguing again, pulling the pillow over my head, I cry out softly, please God make them stop so I can go to sleep.

Now I'm playing on the makeshift swing, a piece of rope tied to the lamppost. Why am I clapping my hands and yelling, oh yes I'm in the cinema, with my bag of mint imperials on my lap. It's the Saturday Matinee; the goodies are coming to chase all the baddies away, I'm playing out and it's raining, my legs have big red rings on just below my knees where my wellies have rubbed against them, I think I'll go home. Look at mam's legs they too have red marks on them, she's been sitting in front of the coal fire again.

Dad's at work. My sister and I are sitting on the fender, mam has made a big pan of soup for us and she gives us the bacon bones to chew on. It's a beautiful sunny day; I'm in the back yard with my arms around my sister's waist. We're singing 'We're a couple of swells'. We've organised a concert and charged a penny entrance fee all the money goes to doctor Barnado's homes, I had forgotten about that. 'Stop it Stop it', Jean Martin is pulling my hair, because I won't let her play with my top and whip, Linda my older sister by two years, pulls her away and wallops her, she runs home crying.

It's dookie apple night, that's what mam calls it, her being Scottish, my friends call it Halloween. Mam always has a party, she's filled the tin bath full water, and put lots of apples in it, we kids have to try and get them in our mouths, keeping our hands behind our backs. Were more interested in the toffee cakes mam has made for us, everyone loves mam's toffee cakes. The night is drawing to a close, mam is playing the organ, we are all singing. 'Knapsack on our back'.

Ah, My sister and I are playing with our cutty out dolls, I love my cutty out dolls.
Mam, mam where are you?

I jerk out of my trance like state, still holding the photograph of the two children. I find myself saying aloud "I don't suppose I'll ever know who you are, but thanks for, the memories."

 

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