My youngest has a school project to complete. It’s called ‘Memory Box’. The basic premise of this topic is for young children to develop an understanding of time. That things happened before they were born. They begin to understand that there was a past. People grow older over time, and so will they. A part of their homework involves interviewing older people and asking them how their childhoods were different to the children of present day. My daughters’ eyes were as wide as saucers when they realised that I did not have a computer when I was little, and the internet had not been invented yet. Even I have to laugh to myself about how ancient I sound.
Naturally, I begin to feel nostalgic. I begin to look through old photographs of myself, my family members and marvel at how much we have changed. I actually detest looking back at old photos of myself. My vision is marred with how difficult the times were, how miserable I often felt, how unhappy I was with my circumstances at that time. But my daughters don’t see any of that. They still recognise their mother, looking younger, but in many ways, still the same.
On my Timehop, a photograph of my mother’s parents appeared. To me, they look like they are in their late 20’s, early 30’s. It’s difficult to tell. As was the fashion at that time, they are not smiling in their portrait, but they do have an aura of immense dignity and kindness. My heart feels a pang, an ache, it’s as if their eyes are looking straight at me, both my Grandfather and Grandmother together, letting me know, that they are there with me always. A source of comfort. So distant, but not so far.
The world famous story, about the little orphaned wizard, Harry Potter, resonated with so many people, crossing boundaries of age, gender, class, ethnicity. Why? Because at the root of the story, is a lonely, misunderstood boy, who desperately misses his parents, and has the responsibility of saving the world on his tiny shoulders. It’s never easy for him. He is often reviled and hated by others. No matter what he does, often people feel that he is doing the wrong thing and let him know this, in no uncertain terms. Who hasn’t felt like that, at certain times in their life?
One of the parts of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, that always stays with me, is the image of little Harry sitting, on his own, in front of the Mirror of Erised, gazing longingly at the image of his parents, who appear to him in the mirror. His greatest desire, to be with them once again. When I was younger, I remember feeling so sorry for Harry and being able to empathise with how he felt – I myself often felt like that about my own father. But as I’ve become older, the pain of staring at images of people long gone, and wishing that they were here, feels even more painful, even more poignant.
I have to physically pull myself away from browsing through old photos, and recapping over old memories. I enjoy studying the expressions on people’s faces, what were they feeling at the time, how they are looking at everyone else. After all, ‘It does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live’ (J K Rowling).
And that is what we have to do isn’t it? Look back through old photos with a smile. Remember those who are no longer here, with fondness. And know that if they were here, they would be screaming at the top of their lungs – ‘Go and live! Go and live. Create new memories with the ones that you love. Take an abundance of photos that everyone can look back on. After all, you too will be missed, when you are gone.’