Friday, 29 June 2012

We were forever blowing bubbles

A few weeks ago, I read The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.  It is about a middle-aged man’s recollection of events that happened many years before and how his memory did not jibe with what seemed to have really happened. Much of his life was therefore built on a misunderstanding and too much guilt. It was, as Barnes says, unsettling, both to the main character of the novel and to me, as it caused me to wonder about my own memory of things from years ago and what memory itself consists of.

In his Confessions, St Augustine ponders the question of memory and where it arises. Until I read that, I hadn’t given much thought to memory chiefly, I suppose, because I have never taken a course in psychology and have taken memory for granted.  Like breathing, it’s just something you do: you remember.

But I got a little jolt last week when I was getting things ready to give to the Diabetes Association. One of the reasons I like to donate is that they come and pick things up right off the porch and they take books! So I found a number of books I thought we could happily share with other readers. I was about to add an old atlas called The World We Live In to the pile when I got curious about its contents  always a bad sign when getting rid of books  and flipped through the pages.

To my surprise, out fell a couple of 45+ -year-old flattened corsages and then some photographs. They consisted of pictures of me and my good friend John Geddes at his family cottage.  

We were 18 years old.  In several we are sitting on rocks in a stream and on the back, I had written “at Piper’s Dam June  1966.”  I remember feeling rather risqué in my new two-piece swimsuit. The other images and their associations were lost to my memory, for instance, playing with a cat called Buttons.  

Thre is a photo of John's mother and an older women I'd identified as Mrs. Halpern sitting in lawnchairs. Then there was a structure which must have been the cottage.

It was something of a shock to come across these photos held safely in that book over many years and many moves.I couldn't remember taking them, although I had written on the back of them. I wondered about the rest of the story in those pictures.  So I looked it up: I have kept a journal from about the age of 14 to the present   although it is a bit intermittent during the years when the children were young.

I took out the old orange exercise book published by Gage with Math facts on the back cover for May 23, 1966 to November 1, 1966. I wondered if I had written anything.  There was quite a lot, as it turned out:

            June 16:

I’m going to John’s this weekend; I had a premonition about Fri. night so luckily I refused [a date] with G. It should be fun drive-in, barbecue, Mrs. Fells [our high school librarian], beach etc. I got a new 2-piece bathing suit at Mary Skidmore’s for $25! kind of a brown colour with flowers woven in enhances my hair.

June 19:

John’s cottage was fun. We went to see the harbour on Fri night and bought candy from Larry Jeffrey the hockey player at his booth (wow) & saw a ship and the lighthouse. John and I beat Mr. and Mrs. G at euchre after we got home.

On Sat. we went into Goderich and looked at the stores. John and I went to Piper’s Dam in the afternoon only ones there fun, awfully pretty but a fast current. In the evening we went to Mrs. Fells’ and Miss Wyatt’s [high school English teacher] then to the drive-in a double feature western and bikini picture.

On Sunday we blew bubbles & played with the cat, went to Seaforth for John’s grandmother to Black’s Point more bubbles & home after dinner.

The weather was warm and sunny.

 And that's it; admittedly there are a few more paragraphs  in which I confided to my journal very positive thoughts about John and subjected myself to relentless self-examination.  Those comments will remain in my journal. Well,  I will note our shared sense of humour,  as we blew those bubbles:  “I mean who else, 18 years old, would lie on a beach blowing bubbles over a bush at people lying (supposedly unawares) about 100 feet on the other side.”  

Then, at John's prompting (still chums after all these years, I'm happy to say),  I searched in one of my photograph boxes and found the pictures I had taken in 1966: 

They show John, then his mum, blowing bubbles; the Maitland River; Buttons the cat looking at a bubble; John swimming in the river; and  me in my hair-enhancing bathing togs. (Once I figure out how to reproduce them  individually, I'll revise this blog. My struggles to do this would take a blog entry by itself.)

So I have snapshots (literally and figuratively) of myself at the age of 18.  It seems so different from how I assume modern-day 18-year-olds spend a weekend at the beach! It is comforting but at the same time rather unsettling to have these journal entries about what happened so long ago.  

I wonder about a lot of things: how I came to be the way I am, how we all do, how much of me remains from that young girl, how much of any of us remains from our youth and how so much is lost to memory without these wonderful  prompts.

To see John's blog on this effervescent event, just  go to 


  1. June,'66? It may interest you to know some of your bubbles reached Point Reyes, California. A magical time!

  2. I loved this, Lorna. Poignant and also fun to look back at those days. I too had a diary then that is full of 'relentless self examination' as well as endless thoughts about what I was going to wear! Thanks for memories from my own past!