My Box of Memories

Pears soap, Emma Claire’s recent trinket gift has a special place in my family history too. It was the choice of my father’s own Grandma and, because of the childhood memories he associated with it, a favourite of his too.

Consequently, at least in the early years, it was the only soap we used at home. On receiving this broken sliver of amber, I found myself immediately transported by its familiar stickiness and herb-like scent to long-ago bath times at Eastfield Crescent, sitting in the tub with my little sister, our singing voices competing with the noise of the electric fan.

Emma Claire, this trinket that stands both for Bam-Bam and the ghost of your novel in its earlier forms, has now been safely shut away in my own memory box. It’s been a discovery, though perhaps not an entirely surprising one, to learn that this tendency to memorialise our pasts is just another thing we share in common.

But, in keeping with the last of our February posts, I’m keener now to acknowledge the differences between us too. I’ve stored away a petalled pink and green ballet headdress, a tiny scented satin bag from Japan that (even after eighteen years) still somehow keeps its perfume, and – having grown up in a non-religious household – there are no equivalents to your christening bracelets.

The trinket I have removed to make way for your soap, Em, is the inner-most part of a Russian Doll.

Gift for EmmaI have fractured memories of playing with its outer casings as a child, painted wooden shells that split apart to reveal the series of dolls inside them. I don’t know what happened to those exterior pieces. Did they get cracked, or lost over time? Did my mother pass the doll to a friend without realising its heart was missing?

At some stage, anyway, I must have found this solitary little doll, the only part that couldn’t be broken into two, and decided I wanted to save it.

Some of its varnish has come away and the red and green of the painted clothing has faded to nothing in places. But I feel certain that someone who can see the brighter amber in a broken bar of Pears soap will overlook the many scuff marks, and be able to enjoy this small memento of her friend from a time many years before she knew her.

3 thoughts on “My Box of Memories

  1. On the theme of soap, my childhood memories would be of Derbac! My mother (who was my dearest friend) fought an endless battle with head lice which serially besieged her 7 kids and her autistic (?) sister, who lived with us all the years of our childhood.

  2. Thanks for getting in touch, Joan.
    Soap, I suppose, is likely to play a key part in many people’s childhood memories – both good and bad! I was certainly struck by how familiar the shard of old-style Pear’s Soap was, particularly in terms of its smell, but also its unique consistency that I didn’t even realise I recalled until I held Emma Claire’s gift in my hands.

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