What is your earliest memory? Mine is being held by my grandfather. He said when I was born he didn’t intend to like me. He thought he was too young to be a grandfather and was offended by my existence. But when I came home from the hospital with my mother I would settle in his arms. He didn’t want to choose me – but I chose him.
He would rock me in his arms and sing me a lullaby and I would fall asleep. I liked sensory things like the satin that rimmed my blanket and scratching stickers. I have this vivid recollection of my grandfather holding me in front of the inside of my auntie’s wardrobe where she had a collection of stickers and me picking one of them off. I remember her protesting and him defending my right as the baby to demolish her sticker collection. That is my oldest memory. Being safe in his arms.
In fact in all my earliest memories I only remember being loved and cared for and cherished. I remember there always being somebody’s lap to climb into and someone to listen to my chatter. I remember my mother stroking my back so I could fall asleep, my auntie taking me out early in the morning and teaching me how to swim, my grandmother hanging clothes while I shadowed her out to the clothesline and she listened to my stories, monopoly games with my other auntie.
And my grandfather. Infinitely patient with me. A streak of mischief that wasn’t tamed when he became an adult. His laugh. His hands roughened from work. His pockets always jingling with change.
I remember sitting in his car on the way to the shops one time when I was very small and Roy Orbison “You Got It” came on the radio and I began to sing and him laughing because I knew the lyrics. We were going to buy things for Nanna from the grocery store and he let me pick ice cream but then remembered he left his wallet in the car and only had the change in his pockets so instead of putting back the ice cream he put back what he came to buy and came back later with his wallet for what he actually needed.
Sometimes when I am feeling low or like I don’t want to keep going, when things are hard – I think of all the care and love he showered on me when I was little and I think I owe it to him to be brave. Because he gave me a wildness by teaching me to laugh at life. Because he treated me like I was precious and left a hard act for any man to follow. Because he sang me to sleep. Because he put back what he needed just to give me something I wanted. Because my oldest memory is of being safe – because of him.
Because he loves me. Even if he didn’t intend to in the beginning.