Last Friday my son’s school put on a truly beautiful mother’s day afternoon, complete with songs, handmade creations, poems, tears, and, cake. The abundance of cake baked by the school’s cook was one of the big highlights for me; pavement-sized pieces of rocky road and thick triangles of cherry-topped Bakewell tart, washed down with tea in school crockery. Ace.
But before we had burned the calories by lots of clapping in order to eat our cake guilt-free we had sat down to watch the children run through a succession of songs and poems they’d written about their mums. No sooner had the headmaster introduced the children, a forest of arms clutching phones went up in the air. I watched the performances twice, once through an array of screens and second in reality. This has become such a rite at events such as these that’s there’s no point going over old ground as we are where we are.
But even though I was one who wasn’t filming the event, I could understand why people would; to show dads and grandparents who weren’t there or to record for posterity. But it did get me wondering about the nature of memory and story telling, and if we recall things differently from when they are recorded in rather a bald, 2-D way, which can only represent the sound (tinny on a mobile) and sight; it can’t record the feelings, atmosphere, or the smells of an event, as they are made up from multitudinous parts all coming together.
As soon as I had enjoyed the event I was turning the afternoon into a memory, augmented by anecdotes. My friend giggling that her daughter had talked of her mum’s golden hair in her poem, the reality being less golden and more bottle. Or sitting down with a stranger and chatting over tea and cake about why her family had moved to the area. Watching my little boy standing on stage rummaging in his trousers when he should have been singing to Don’t Put the Baby in the Washing Machine! Lots of elements weave together to create memories, which is why when we watch back footage of events they never truly seem to be how we remember them.
This brought me in mind of a television dramatisation I recall from childhood, that of the Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Bostock. I had such vivid memories of seeing the book brought to screen by the BBC and it being brilliant and spooky Christmas viewing. So, every November now I read this book to my son as a festive tradition, but last year, just out of interest I looked on YouTube for the 1980s television programme. I so wish I hadn’t, it spoiled my memories of it completely, it looked hackneyed, old and poorly filmed. It didn’t live up to what I’d built up in my mind, and my memory of watching it first time round as a child has been robbed of something.
For this reason I’ll be keeping my phone in my bag during my son’s performances, I want to treasure them in my mind in years to come and allow them to become alloyed with glimmer and shine over the years, and I don’t want that dulling in the future by being faced with the flat digital reality of what happened. Although I wouldn’t mind a rerun of the cakes!