petite anglaise

December 8, 2005


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:36 pm

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.


  1. oh, and that post was dedicated to Brando, for obvious reasons

    Comment by petite — December 8, 2005 @ 12:50 pm

  2. You have just reminded my why I try so hard every day to make my daughter’s world a happy and positive place. I want her to have happy memories…

    Comment by Kristin — December 8, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

  3. Your earliest memories revolve around unaccustomed or somewhat traumatic feelings, don’t they? (hospital, fear, throwing up). So do mine. There you’ll be in 20 or 30 years, sentimentally recalling the singing and the twinkling lights – and she’ll come up with something really gruesome :-)

    Comment by Jean — December 8, 2005 @ 1:55 pm

  4. I always worry what my kids first memories are going to be. For me i have more bad than good i just hope its the other way round for my kids.

    Comment by Growing Up — December 8, 2005 @ 2:31 pm

  5. may they be a life-long series of happy memories.

    lovely, PA. i was just mentioning you the other day to a friend.

    Comment by brando — December 8, 2005 @ 3:45 pm

  6. Oooo I had a dirndl too, in fact a series of them, courtesy of my Auntie who lives in Austria, and I used to wear them to parties too! Consequently there are *many* photos of me in them, with plaited hair to complement the look.

    They are still hanging in my old wardrobe at my parents’ house. In fact they might fit my daughters now…

    Comment by Susan — December 8, 2005 @ 4:02 pm

  7. Like Kirsten I’m mindful of the opportunities for happy childhood time and happy childhood memories for my li’l girl. Yesterday we looked at some of her paintings from a couple of years back … like they came from another planet! I’ve got no idea what she’ll remember …

    One of my earliest has the same inverse vertigo of you with your giant dad. She was twenty something. I was two. She had a bee-hive on her head. It was way out of focus from where I was looking. It was bound to end in tears. As soon as I said “I love you” and she laughed, I knew it was all over.

    Comment by Huw — December 8, 2005 @ 4:31 pm

  8. I wonder about that with my niece, too. Will she remember the leg lift rides from her aunt, being spun around and around by her daddy, dancing with great grandma, the first time she slept in her big girl bed?

    I’m glad I’m not the only one with these thoughts in her head.

    Comment by quinn — December 8, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

  9. It’s weird what stays in our mind. I have a hospital one too, though a less joyous occasion – me and my siblings gathered around a hospital bed, which I *think* was my dying father.

    And a vomiting one – I walk into my mum’s bedroom in the middle of the night. I know something’s wrong but am not sure what. She wakes up and asks me what’s wrong. I throw up all over her bedroom floor.

    I bet Tadpole will remember the things you least expect her to!

    Comment by anxious — December 8, 2005 @ 9:30 pm

  10. Childhood memories are wierd things. I remember my mothers new second-hand bike being delivered – I was 18 months; I remember being told to walk to the burns ward – with 2 severely scalded feet, age 2; I remember my nigerian foster sister complaining that the ‘dirt’ wouldn’t come off in the bath; getting a hiding for burning the lino when petrfied of a sparkler, … then absolutely nothing till age 10. In short I now try to make the little things memorable, rather than ‘special’ occasions, as for some reason, in memory, the negative seems to outweigh the positive. Maybe a genetic impulse to improve? Or am I just a complete depressive?

    Comment by J — December 9, 2005 @ 2:11 am

  11. Do our bad memories somehow last longer than our good ones? It’s sad to think about that but maybe there’s some truth in it. I have a vague recollection of being rocked in a rocking chair by my mother but have no idea how old I was. But when I was 4 I have VERY vivid memories of getting my tonsils out, having them put this big black rubber mask over my face which scared the hell of out me, and having to stay overnight in the pediatric ward in a big metal crib (I was 4 and not at all happy about THAT) but having a plastic Woody Woodpecker toy to keep me company (mommies weren’t allowed to stay with their children overnight in 1964).

    So the more clear memories seem to be mostly bad while the happier ones are there, but fuzzy… like coming home from school and finding unexpected little presents on my bed because my mom had been out shopping that day and remembered me.

    I used to be under the impression that the reason I couldn’t remember much from before age 10 was that my parents’ divorced happened then, and I blocked out everything before that (though I clearly remember the night my father left – don’t ask, it’s not a pretty story). Reading some of the other comments, I now wonder if remembering the bad stuff is actually a more common occurence. Drop a comment on my blog with your thoughts, I’m really curious.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — December 9, 2005 @ 2:19 am

  12. I am under the impression that first memories are often associated with terror, nightmares or painful events.
    Terror of darkness, terror of cavemen before the invention of fire.


    Comment by Chicago — December 9, 2005 @ 8:05 am

  13. My daughter, who is three and a half already talks to me about her “memories”, the funny thing is that she always remembers the really insignificant stuff like one of our holidays, instead of remembering the dolphins, boats, beach, safari park and all the exciting stuff we did for her..she remembers that we shared a packet of crips and she got sick in the car…

    makes you wonder eh? why spend a fortune on holidays -just buy crips and take her for a drive around paris next time…

    Comment by croque madame — December 9, 2005 @ 9:43 am

  14. Hi PA. An amazing blog all round. I sent a link to a friend in the UK who has just set out on the ‘road to self rediscovery’ in the hope that she may see some light at the end of the tunnel.

    Bon courage et bon fêtes a tous les trois.

    Andrew – Orly sur Morin (77)

    Comment by Andrew — December 9, 2005 @ 9:43 am

  15. How weird to find a few posts on childhood memories around blogworld today, Lisa’s and from there to yours. Weird because last night I wrote one about my mother’s traumatic experiences during WW2 and how she blocked them out for 40 years until they were brought to the surface by a breakdown. And I try and take a step further, can our parent’s childhood traumas still affect US?

    I haven’t read your blog before, I like it :) Take care, Kerstin

    Comment by Kerstin — December 9, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

  16. I’m always wondering about what my son’s first memory will be. His tiny life is crammed with so much stuff, and yet I only have one or two distinct memories from that age, so I assume it will be similar for him. Whatever he picks out and allows to stick, chances are it will be something small and insignificant, which I won’t even remember myself.
    My first memory is of standing up in my cot and crying in the morning, in the secure knowledge that it would cause a smiling comforting face to appear around the door.

    Comment by Clare — December 9, 2005 @ 6:15 pm

  17. I’ve also often wondered if some of my memories are real or they are simply a product of having a story told to me over and over again, or perhaps a favorite photo. For example, I think that I remember the moment that I first pulled myself up and stood in my crib, but there’s also a great picture of that. Who knows?

    Comment by BlondebutBright — December 9, 2005 @ 6:47 pm

  18. Just a charming story. I think childhood memories are the best. I subscribe to Piaget’s school of thought. Children are gifted, intelligent beings. All the best or the worst in later adult life is traced back to those precious years. I find salvation in my children. It may be too late for me (as an adult) but I find hope in their words, thoughts. Isn’t it the wish of any decent parent? That our children go farther, higher than we ever imagined or did?

    Comment by Maverick — December 11, 2005 @ 5:41 pm

  19. My first memory isn’t quite so traumatic. I’m about 4 years old and on the sidewalk outside our house. I’m examining my knees and wondering what they would look like without scabs.

    I eventually discovered that they’re pretty much like everyone else’s, knobby and boring.

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — December 12, 2005 @ 3:26 am

  20. I hope no-one is offended by the MSNBC ad which is showing through blogads by the way – it is a bit of a coup for blogads (which is a network which allows advertising to be sold on blogs and bloggers to get a fair cut – e.g. $14 out of $20 spent by the advertiser in this case) as the advertiser in question bought ads across 800 blogs.

    It’s for a TV show (although the link appears to be broken), not for an actual porn site. I do have standards!

    Comment by petite — December 12, 2005 @ 9:38 am

  21. Imagine my disappointment…

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — December 12, 2005 @ 11:25 am

  22. Maybe petite could get dressed up in her nurse’s uniform to make up for the disappointment??

    Comment by kjr — December 12, 2005 @ 12:31 pm

  23. it’s funny what gets remembered. My parents moved abroad last year and so we were all called to empty their loft of our belongings. As children my siblings and I made scrapbook style diaries of our holidays, but the content rarely gives much indication of where we were or what we did. My diaries revolve around mealtimes and my sister’s around toilet stops and her attire. And those are the things we both remember most vividly now.

    Comment by hannahish — December 12, 2005 @ 5:05 pm

  24. It’s an interesting subject…and do you know what the longest lasting sense of the 5 senses is? Olfactory (smell). We remember smells a lot longer than things we see, hear, taste, or touch. Just thought I’d throw that one in!

    Comment by Eric at Paris Daily Photo — December 12, 2005 @ 9:19 pm

  25. Sorry, I just realised that that last comment made no sense in english… I meant do you know which sense has the longest lasting memory? je suis fou!

    Comment by Eric at Paris Daily Photo — December 12, 2005 @ 9:21 pm

  26. What about memories of before being born? Or of life before this one?
    Hope you enjoyed Pl.Hoche, Petite!

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — December 13, 2005 @ 12:06 am

  27. My first memory is from the age of 2… wearing ‘romper stompers’ and trying to walk down the sidewalk. They are upside-down small buckets or pails with a plastic wire attached. You put one foot on each bucket and hold on to the wire and try to walk. We have no photos, so I think this one is really me. Strangely, I remember sooo many things from my childhood and my sisters remember nothing. They accuse me of stealing their memory… My daughter still remembers things from when she was two and she is 6 now, but I wonder how vivid they will stay…

    Comment by nrg — December 13, 2005 @ 10:40 am

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