The autumn leaves made me remember my time as a teacher earlier, specifically a misty October day several years ago when I took my class out of school and down the road to the local park. It was cold outside and we all wore our scarves and gloves and formed a crocodile; me at the front holding a small gloved hand in mine, the rest of the class snaking behind, puffing little clouds of steam like baby dragons. Once in the park, we stopped still and listened to the sounds around us: birds in the trees, leaves scrunching, wind rustling the branches. A bonfire was burning some distance away, bringing with it the particularly autumnal smell of burning wood and leaves. We hunted for special leaves - the biggest and brightest ones we could find on the grass, and put them in a carrier bag for later, then played on the swings and the climbing frame just because. Afterwards, we snaked back to school and sat down with mugs of hot chocolate to write ideas down for autumn poetry. Later that week, we wrote our poems on the pressed leaves that we'd gathered and suspended them from the ceiling. As we walked back from the park that day, the child at the front of the crocodile asked me if I had any children. I laughed. "No - I've got you lot. 25 children are enough for me, than you very much." "That's a shame," he said. "I wish you were my mum. You do the best things."
It's sort of true though. I loved teaching - all aspects of it, but the bit that appealed to me more than anything else was the ability to create childhood memories for the children in my class. We did our fair share of normal classroom stuff, but I always tried to throw in something special occasionally. We squidged through mud with our shoes off when it had rained, looking for worms. We wrote on unpeeled bananas with biros during handwriting lessons (try it). Whenever it snowed we all stopped what we were doing immediately and ran to press our noses against the windows to watch and speculate about the possibility of it settling on the ground properly. Every December, Sinterklaas visited my classroom and filled the PE shoes with chocolate coins, lit a candle and left a trail of glitter. I fulfilled my job of instilling my classes with knowledge, but I also tried to ensure that even the children who didn't have much of a home life would have something to look back on and smile about when they grew up.
I was definitely better at being a teacher than I am at being a mother.
My own childhood memories seem to kick in at the age of two, starting with a memory of my 2nd birthday party and my birthday cake - rectangular and pink, scalloped with white icing, my name written on the top, flaked almonds pressed around the sides (no such thing as nut allergies in 1980). It had apricot jam in the middle (which I did not like) but the sponge was light and fluffy and the icing was just the right sort to stick to your teeth. What follows after that is a jumble of images: Coming home from nursery school to the scent of freshly baked bread, the smell of damp earth as I helped my Dad dig in the garden with my wellies on the wrong feet, ironing with my mum in the kitchen - her with the steam iron, me with my toy iron and board, the smell of starch in the air, both singing a song about ironing which, to this day, I am not sure is a real song or just something that she made up.
Rory was 2 in June, so I know that he may well remember things that happened from that day onwards when he's older. This worries me.
I sweated blood to make him a chocolate hedgehog cake for his 2nd birthday (you know the sort - studded with chocolate buttons to look like prickles). I presented it to him ceremoniously a couple of hours before his birthday party. "Oh, very lovely pinecone" he said, crushing my cake decorating self esteem and ensuring that his enduring memory of his 2nd birthday will that Mummy made him a cake in the shape of something that falls off of trees into the drain outside our house.
There is, of course, the memory of Mummy making jam with a maggot in it. And the recollection of when I sat on his cheese spread sandwich due to his sneaky slight of hand and he laughed so much that he wet himself. There is the time that he fell down the toilet because I was plucking my eyebrows in the bathroom mirror and wasn't paying attention. And the time we threw cake at each other for an hour in a field. And the time that Daddy had an actual panic attack because a jelly had upended in the fridge before it set a few days previously and I'd forgotten to clean it up (in my defence, I did clean up the jelly that went on the floor. I just forgot about the fridge at the time, and anyway, it gave it a pleasing raspberry fragrance which masked the smell of the rotting cucumber at the back. You say 'almighty mess', I say 'novel fridge deodoriser'). It's hardly the stuff of childhood dreams is it?
So, I am setting myself a task. This week, I am on a mission to make memories and will report back at the end of the week. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment below. They must all be memories that can be made without the use of a car and with as little money as possible as I have about £3.00 to my name. (ie no going to the zoo - you need a bank loan to do that these days). I don't think this morning's disastrous trip to Storytime at the local library counts somehow. ("This story is TOO RUBBISH for me", said Rory to the librarian running the session. "Please be quiet." The shame.)
Pinecone, my arse.