Sweet Memories

Christmas 1977
Christmas 1977

As a writer and a person, I draw a lot on my memories. I suffer from ‘fibro fog’ and so often I forget words or recent events but my long-term memory is sharp and vivid, sparked by smells and songs and photos.

I read an article today on how looking at Facebook photos on your timeline can lift your mood, as they remind you that you have had good times in your life.


I also read a suggestion online somewhere last week (see I’ve already forgotten where) that at the beginning of the year you should write down every good thing that happens in your life, however small or seemingly insignificant, and put them in a jar. Then at the end of the year you take them all out and read them and there is the evidence in black and white of how many good things have happened.

In January 2012 I reached an all time low. I lost a few hours of my life and, in the days after this, with help from the mental health crisis team and my  therapist, I began the road to recovery. I was advised to carry photos of my children with me at all times so if I felt low and vulnerable I would remember that there are people counting on me and who love me. Photos trigger memories. Memories shape who we are. Memories are what make us human.

I love nostalgia. I love reminiscing. My first novel, The Generation Game, is full of details from the 70s, 80s and 90s. The ‘smallness’ of domestic life and the ‘bigness’ of national events. Music, telly programmes, clothes, sweets. The Silver Jubilee, the miners’ strike, Diana’s death. There’s even a time capsule thrown in, Blue Peter style. I had great fun writing this novel as it meant I could spend time back in my childhood, which was mostly a very happy place to be.

Sadly, our memory can fail us. I don’t mean forgetfulness. I mean dementia. Alzheimer’s. Nicholas Sparks’ quote from The Notebook sums up the tragedy of this condition. ‘It is a barren disease, as empty and lifeless as a desert. It is a thief of hearts and souls and memories.’ My step-father had Alzheimer’s and it was the saddest thing watching him lose his memory over several years. But even towards the end of his life, when he was in a nursing home, he would smile with happiness when my mum walked in the room and say ‘That’s my wife!’ And if you mentioned the word ‘Canada’, the place he was born and lived for the first ten years of his life, his eyes would light up with recognition.

Words, places, photos. A first curl, tooth, shoe.  Mementoes. Memories. So precious.

Even when we are at our lowest, we must remember all the good things we have had and all the important people who have crossed our paths. I’m not an advocate of telling others to count their blessings. That doesn’t work when you are depressed. I just mean that focusing on a photo of a loved one can bring us back to a better place.

Looking at the family photo at the top of this post is tinged with some sadness as four of the people sharing that Christmas dinner are no longer here. However, it was a happy day in our huge house with lots of family members staying. It reminds me of good times. And although sad things lay ahead, I don’t have to let those wipe away what went before.

So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good. Helen Keller.


8 thoughts on “Sweet Memories

  1. A lovely, but also rather poignant posting. This photo took me back to my early teen Xmases of the 70’s. Of stuffing our faces, paper hats were compulsory headgear, and then flopping on the settee (not sofas back then) with chocolate brazils and snowballs (or the fabulous BabyChams – do they still exist?) to watch the Morecambe and Wise Xmas special. I think we even had the same wallpaper…happy memories indeed.

  2. I completely empathise with this post. I have suffered some ups and downs in my life and photographs, letters, trinkets, anything that triggers a memory can lift my mood. Two massive losses for me were my father when I was only thirteen, then in Jan 2011 I lost my 27 year old son. I have photos of my dad, but because I was quite young my memories of him are superficial (is that the right word) I only have small snapshots in my head of him as my Dad, I never had the chance to know the real person. When I lost my son, we had tons of photos, and videos from birth to just a few months before he died. I suddenly realised the benefit of being able watch him, to hear his voice and be reminded of his laugh. I immediately thought how lucky I was to have this media. I don’t cry when I see it, (not always) but enjoy the fact that I can still watch him…in action as it were. I wish there were some footage of my dad somewhere.

    Someone said after I lost my son, ‘don’t cry and be sad about the things he wasn’t able to do but enjoy and remember everything he achieved.’ All the videos, photos and ‘stuff’ help me to do this.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that, Ninette. I lost my dad (in the photo in the apron) when I was 10 so I understand exactly what you are saying. We do have a cine film of my mum and dad’s wedding and it’s amazing to see him, though no sound. I can still hear him say ‘night night, sleep tight, mind the bedbugs don’t bite’. I’m so so sorry to hear about your son but am so glad you have those videos. And what a lovely thing that person said to you. All best wishes x

  3. Another poignant and courageous posting, Sophie. Thanks for sharing it with us. I heard about the happy jar idea and started my own version, a beautiful notebook given to me by a friend from overseas where I record one or two good things about each day. Occasionally, I leave it for a few days and it shocks me how difficult it is to remember what has happened over the time period. I started it because last year was a great year in many ways (company 20 years old; significant birthday for me with wonderful celebrations organised by even more wonderful husband; two books published; MA completed) and yet because we finished the year with our house in turmoil and all the ground floor rooms covered in mud after the November flood, many of our Christmas cards wished us ‘a much better 2013 than 2012’! I realised we were letting the bad bits wipe out the good bits and I didn’t want that to happen again.

    And, yes, I remember that wallpaper too 🙂

    • You certainly had a busy last year, Kate. I like your idea of writing things down in a notebook. I tend to write bad things in my journal to get them out of my head, but I will start writing in good things too.

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