I am walking along a long corridor with my daddy, who is very tall, like a giant. The corridor stretches as far as I can see in both directions. Everyone who catches sight of me, whether it be a nurse, another visitor or a patient, smiles or points, and I giggle with delight. I like being the centre of everyone’s attention.
We are going to visit mummy and my new baby sister, who has red hair and a very blotchy face, in the maternity ward. I am two years and ten months old, and when I got dressed today I insisted on wearing my nurse’s uniform.
I am lying in my bed in the dark wondering what to do. I have a proper bed, because I’m a big girl, but my sister still sleeps in a cot. Wilfred, my teddy, is propped up in his usual place, covering the end of the radiator which looks like a scary face. I have just woken from a very nasty dream about the monster who hides in the shadowy place behind the sofa in the living room, and I would like nothing more than to run into mummy and daddy’s bedroom for a cuddle.
The problem is that the man who lives at the foot of the bed, who sometimes tickles my feet in the night, might grab me if I do.
I deliberate, for what seems like hours, but is probably only a matter of seconds, then shoot out of the bottom left hand corner of the bed, just out of his reach, and lunge out onto the brightly lit landing.
It is the Queen’s birthday, which is called a “Jubilee”. I am wearing my very best dress, which is German and called a “dirndl”. My auntie lives in Germany, and she bought a blue dirndl for me and a green one for my sister.
There is a party in someone’s garden for the Jubilee, and all the people from Admiral’s Court, the cul de sac where we live, are there. We have wheelbarrow races, and I eat lots of cake and ice cream and jelly.
When it is bedtime, a nice girl comes to babysit so that mummy and daddy can go back to the party without us. I have a tummy ache, and suddenly realise that I am going to be sick, but I can’t tell the babysitter because I daren’t open my mouth. I point to my mouth with one hand, covering it with the other, and she somehow understands and motions me into the bathroom. I go to the sink, like mummy showed me, but the babysitter says “no!” and makes me do it in the toilet.
It tastes really, really horrible, but once all the jelly has come back out, I feel much better.
These are the earliest memories I can recall from my childhood. I’m as sure as I can be that these are memories, as opposed to stories recounted by adults within my earshot so many times that I have fashioned mental images to accompany them. Although I still maintain to this day that I must have been with my mother when my baby sister was stung by a wasp as she laid in her big, old-fashioned pram, so vivid are the pictures and soundtrack I carry in my head. But I wasn’t actually there, I was at school, according to my mother.
Sometimes I wonder what Tadpole’s first memory will be. Hanging decorations together on our Christmas tree? Singing songs with mummy in the bathroom, enjoying the echo of our voices? Dissolving in fits of giggles when she does that funny voice for “The Gruffalo”? Gasping at the twinkling lights of Paris by night from daddy’s living room window?
I look forward to the day, many years from now, when my daughter will tell me.