Monday, July 18, 2011

When you were small - Memories!

Time to take another trip backwards!  I'm thinking maybe today's post might be a bit trickier than previous ones.  After all, it's fairly easy to remember your first love, first best friend, most memorable toy - but this one took me a while to work out, so maybe it will be difficult for you too.  The funny thing is, once I worked it out, I couldn't understand why I had such difficulty with it in the first place.

Anyhow (fav crutch word), when you think about childhood, if you could only hold onto ONE childhood memory, which one would it be?  Tough - you must agree.

I remember Billy Connolly telling a story about taking his kids to Scotland and how they went to wonderful places, they saw the salmon leap, they had a picnic next to a castle, and he made up stories about Kings and Queens, they did lots of wonderful things, so much so, that by the end of the holidays, he felt pretty confident when he asked them which part was the most memorable.  He was convinced it would be either the salmon or the magic castle, but children are never easy creatures to predict.  'Sesame Street', they told him.  You see, they had one of those mini screens in the back of the car, and as they would drive from one wonderful place to the next, they would watch 'Sesame Street' on it!

Which kinda leads me to my answer.  Now as none of my family read my blog, I am probably pretty safe saying this, but it wasn't a wonderful Christmas memory, or an endearing family moment, or even an act of human kindness or tenderness, it was the Washing Yard.

Okay there you have it, if I could hold onto ONLY ONE childhood memory, it would be the Washing Yard - Why you might ask, or not, but sure I'll tell you anyhow.

I grew up in what were called flats, run down buildings sort of thing.  This meant we had no back or front garden, nor did we have much else either, but we did have a washing yard.  The washing yard was a brilliant place - there would be rows and rows of washing lines full of laundry, the sheets were the best because you could run through them and pretend you were flying.  Plus it had tall poles to hold up the lines, which you could swing around and climb.  Now the washing yard was out the back bedroom window where I slept, and the window was one of those with 3 window panes across.  My brother, sister and I would sit in front of the window and each of us got our own window pane, I know, sad but true.  Anyhow (told you it was my fav crutch word), we would look out the window, and when it snowed we'd pretend we were traveling through galaxies, or at night we would try to guess which window would light up next, because obviously, everyone living in the flats had windows which backed onto the washing yard, and like Christmas lights, at night each of them would switch on and off. 

Often, especially at night you would hear noises from the washing yard as families might fight, a Dad coming home drunk and raising all hell around him, or even worse the banshee wailing.  In the morning, the place filled up with seagulls, millions of them, or so it appeared to me as a child, and again the washing yard took on a whole new image.  I suppose what I'm saying is that more than anything, the washing yard fuelled my imagination, whether from listening to stories from each of the windows, or seagulls, or running through sheets, it sparked off so many things which made my childhood extra special.  My brother ended up becoming a Professor of Physics & Astronomy, which in my opinion was connected to the galaxies we travelled through together.

Gosh this is turning into a long post.  Anyhow, here's a poem I wrote earlier as they say, called 'The Washing Yard'.  I hope you enjoy it, and please, if you can work out which childhood memory you would choose to hold on to, then let us know!

The Washing Yard

Rows of dance on washing lines
Beneath one hundred sheets a child could fly
Curl metal bars and catch blue sky.
Turn snowstorms into a Milky Way
Laugh and play too young to know
As children blow at Jinny Joe.

And as the night light fills its sky
Banshees wail and babies cry.
Strange voices haunt the Washing Yard
Windows switching on and off
Each pane a different story told
A zillion words bound metal poles.

Then in morn all night sounds forced to hide
When from its sky come seagulls high.
Hoards of birds create such clatter
Swoon and squawk discarded matter.
Magic, to a young child's eye
As adults watch their lives pass by.

Buried in some human tomb
A child's joy,
In an adult's gloom.


  1. wow loved the poem ....have been to flats like that in Dublin many years ago as a kid, so could really relate to this.Lovely write will have to go and rack my brains about my childhood now ...thank you

  2. Thanks kez - looking forward to hearing your memory!!

  3. I love this post I too grew up without much & there was rarely money to spare. Despite this looking back I can see I was rich beyond my wildest dreams. What I would give to be back there with my amazing imagination that took me on wonderful journeys and turned everyday objects into toys to die for. We had no computers, DSi's, Wii's and the like so are imaginations were are most precious possession. So I suppose my answer to your question is my young imagination. It got me through some tough times and enhanced my happy times. So I want to thank you for reminding me Louise that if I push all my mental junk aside I have amazing memories still to be revisited. Don't tell anyone it's actually made me tear up.. But I will deny it if asked;). Wonderful post.

  4. great poem socks, captures that exhileration of childhood really well, really fab images throughout

  5. Thanks Niamh B and thanks tattoodevil13 - and of course nikki you are right if we could harness our imagination from childhood, we could do nearly anything!

  6. Brilliant post, as usual, Louise. Your command of imagery is wonderful. I could see the washing yard so clearly. And your attention to detail - the light from the other houses like Christmas trees. Love it.

  7. Favorite lines from the poem:
    Buried in some human tomb
    A child's joy,
    In an adult's gloom.

    Beautifully evocative, Louise.

  8. Positively wonderful Louise! I agree with S.K. Epperson regarding the favorite lines from the poem, beautiful juxtaposition.

    My memory I would keep would be of an old pig-pen we converted to a playhouse. It was probably 5 feet wide by 6 or 7 feet long. The old concrete feeding trough just inside the doorway was where we took off our muddy shoes on rainy days or our galoshes on snowy ones so we wouldn't track up the small rug on the floor of the main part of the pen. It even had a very small back door we could go in and out of that led to the remains of the apple and cherry orchards, most of which had been destroyed many, many years before I was born.

    My best friend Jody and I could play for hours on end in our playhouse. Her great uncle even cut out one wall and put in an old window so we could hang an old pair of curtains. The window was stuck shut permanently but we didn't care. It made our pig-pen playhouse look just like a real house. We thought we had it made.

    Thanks for the memory and the smile. You have no idea how much joy I get out of visiting your page.

  9. Oh thanks Tracy you are very kind - and a brilliant story - pig-pen playhouse sounds like a perfect place - you made me smile!

  10. Hmmm... being a glass half empty kinda person I only really remember the miserable bits of my childhood... I've been sat here trying to think of something magical. Boo hoo. Violins. Poor me!

    But, you did spark something off. I think looking back, I was happiest when visiiting my Nana and Aunt. They lived on the Grand Canal, in a terrace red brick house, two up two down. But a bit like your own memories my aunt had a fabulous imagination and told us all about the fairies who lived down the end of the garden. And the pair of (imaginary!) greyhounds she kept in kennels around the corner. And there was a door in the house that would only open if you said 'open sesame'. And of course, it would only open when you said that :)

    Thanks for reminding me of these happy memories :)

  11. Great post and poem! This is a tough one. I think perhaps I would hold on to my memories of my parents strumming their acoustic guitar and singing folk songs to me as I fell asleep. I did write a poem about that very thing. Oh, what hippies we were!

  12. Ah Dob you nearly got me going there, close to tears - And Lolamouse what a great memory and brill way of sending you to sleep, very hip!

  13. This is like my weekly therapy session. I've been sat here 20 minutes thinking back. Hmm. Happiest memory? My step-grandmother whipping out her false teeth and pretending to eat me up with them.

  14. HaHa Caren - Sorry to have taken 20 minutes off your life!

  15. Oh wow Louise,

    Reading your poem I felt as if I was there. Your post almost had me listening to the sounds of the sheets in the winds.

    I really enjoyed that Louise, so much so; I am going to print it and laminate it. If I sub in a senior class I will be able to read your poem to them. I can dedicate a whole English class to it.


  16. Ah wow thanks Michelle that means an awful lot to me!

  17. I feel like I've been there, on the inside looking out, trying to figure out what other people were doing. Dreaming. Flying. Creating stories in my head.

    There may not have been a washing yard, but there are definitely times in my life where I could relate to your story.

    My favorite childhood memory goes back to Christmas in the early 80's. Well before my blog stories begin. This memory my family all still lived together. In a nice house. Parents had nice jobs.

    Kris and I woke up before everyone else on Christmas morning. We tip-toed into the family room and were floored by the amount of gifts covering the floor.

    Blankets covered bicycles. (Mine was a purple bike with a basket and banana seat) Presents wrapped in fine paper were stacked floor to ceiling. And a great big stuffed dog sat in the corner of the room.

    Kris and I were so afraid we'd get in trouble we snuck back to bed and pretended we were asleep.

    When everyone woke up, Kris and I acted so surprised and smile ear to ear. The big stuffed dog was given to me by my older brother Kenny. So the dog was named Kenny. We still have him. My oldest son kept him for awhile, now he sits in Abby's room. Eventually he'll be with the baby, I'm sure of it.

    Every now and then I look at him, sitting with a million other stuffed animals on my daughter's bedroom floor and shake my head. I can't believe I still have him, and I can't believe that Christmas was so long ago.

  18. Thanks Krystal - A great story, and sounds like Kenny has travelled a long way with you and I am sure he will travel with the baby too. When they all get a little old, you must tell them his story - wonderful memory, really glad you shared it.X

  19. Had a trip back on my own blog this week. Reminiscing about trips to the beach in my da's Mini car, usually to Brittis Bay or somewhere like that. Then I came across your post which I enjoyed so much.

  20. Hi, lovely post, bringing back a lot of memories. I was reminded of mine last year as I sat in the waiting room of a childrens hospital with my daughter and grandson. There was a state of the art replica kitchen (damn near lifesize) in the corner, and not one child was bothered with it. I was the only one there that was fascinated by it, as a memory flooded back from my childhood. I am the eldest of ten children, but in the time of the memory It was only me and my next sisters and my family lived in Mam's home with my Grandad and a load of aunts, so as you can imagine we never wanted for toys. In the summers we went to my fathers mothers house in Kildare for a weeks holiday. Just up the road (probably a mile or so, I would guess) lived the next door neighbours and we loved to play with the two daughters much of an age to us. They had a big yard and had made up a rickety kitchen out of planks and bricks. Every thing was there, the cooker table chairs etc. This was magic to us townies, and we were enthralled by it, even though we had lovely dolls and prams and other expensive toys at home. It is my opinion that toys today are too realistic and kids don't develope an imagination. This is such a pity, my sister and I often talk of those few boards and bricks and how we would have traded all our lovely toys for them.

  21. Ah Margaret - thanks for that memory. I found it really moving and so true. Proving imagination is a wonderful thing to develop and have with you always.

  22. had a lot of trouble with this, it really made me think. I can remember stuff like sending notes up the chimney to father Christmas etc but the strongest memories are my first bike, my mum got it 2nd hand, my uncle took it to work and got it re-sprayed it even had my initials stamped ito the mudguards, i was never off it! left it leaning against the bin one day came back out and the bin had been emptied and they had taken my bike as well. i can also remember being put in the back kitchen to eat my dinner (heinz tomato soup) we had a yellow/grey flecked formica kitchen table, i was in the kitchen because the local "bobby" was having a word with my mum about my brothers behaviour, finished my dinner and went outside to find my brother going through the bobbys saddle bag and nicking his torch, ahh such innocent times

  23. Ah thanks for that riggerscam - a great memory -so sad about ur bike - but ur initials stamped into the mudguards, how cool is that. As for bro, I guess the bobby having a word wit your Mum didn't have d desired effect!!


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