We’re moving house in a few weeks if all goes to plan. So this has forced us to have a sort out. Yesterday, it was the garage – which has never seen a car in the ten years we have lived here. It has seen a few teenage parties, band practice, workout sessions, but mainly junk. But what is junk? After all, one person’s junk is another one’s treasure.
I admit to being a bit of a hoarder but I am determined to be more ruthless with what I save, especially when it comes to our children’s pictures and writing. The plan is to take a photo of most of their canon and to keep a few select pieces. As an early years teacher and as a writer I particularly love their collection of emerging writing and I know that they learned to write in a holistic way, without Letterland or other such contrived schemes. (Child-friendly phonics? I don’t think so. There’s no such thing. Even ‘phonic’ is spelt with a ‘p’ for goodness sake.)
It worked for them. One son is about to go to SOAS (University of London) to study Japanese and Linguistics. The other son is off to Brighton University to study History and Politics (this from a little boy who had to start school a month after he turned four, who could barely sit still in a chair, let alone hold a pencil). 16 year old daughter hopes to do Creative Writing A Level next term – if her GCSEs allow (deep breath for Thursday).
This was going to be a post about memories and how we hold onto them, rather than a rant about how children best learn to read and write (more ‘Not Now Bernards’ and less ‘Biff, Chip and Whatnots’, please). And I know the most important thing is for children to live in a print-rich environment, to see their parents reading and writing – and this isn’t always possible if parents have had a bad experience of education themselves. (Even shopping lists and magazines help.) And it is vital to show your children that what they produce is valuable. When they come home from pre-school with a soggy, sticky picture, put it up on the fridge or the wall. Date it. Catalogue it somehow, even if it’s by taking a photo.
My dear dad (God rest him) did this very thing. I brought home my very first painting from nursery school – a blobby mess of reds and yellows. He framed it for me and it hung on the wall of my bedroom until I left home. It ended up in the garage and I found it yesterday. The frame is broken. The colours have faded. But as soon as I saw it, I was a three year old again. I could smell the poster paint. I could remember what it felt like to wield a squishy paint brush. And I remember that my parents valued what I had produced. I only wish Dad could have been here to see me get my O level results, my A levels and degrees. And how I wish he could be here when my third novel is published in October. (And that goes for both my brothers’ achievements and all 12 grandchildren. And the great grandchild that is on ‘its’ way.)
I am taking my picture to be framed and I don’t care what the framer says when they see my work of art. It was good enough for Dad to hang on the wall and that’s what matters.