Mementos of Childhood

March 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, History, Making History, Psychology | 5 Comments
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I possess very little from my childhood; not the only doll I ever had, that the dog chewed up, nor bits of the wooden scooter Dad made one Christmas. I don’t even have the things that I was really keen to hang on to, that were important to me then; things like my Missal (Mass book), my First Communion and Confirmation medals and certificates, and especially the books I loved.

In the 1950s, we were a struggling English migrant family of seven (five kids), living in a tiny three-roomed house in a tiny village in rural Australia. Dad added a room to the house when our uncle and aunt and two cousins arrived from England to stay with us until they could get their own place, and another when our grandparents followed them.

My little brother, the fifth child, was born not long before they arrived. There was little room for thirteen of us, let alone old toys and papers, and that sort of thing didn’t ever seem that important to my parents anyway. It didn’t worry me at the time either; I was only a kid. But times have changed since then.

My home in 1965

I would love to have the books I treasured as a child, examples of my writing or school work, anything at all in my handwriting. The only original things I do have are a few report cards, my references from secondary school, and the three certificates I received during my education – one on leaving the convent primary school where I was female dux, one at the end of my third high school year, and my high school matriculation. The only example of my writing that I have consists of one article, printed in the second annual magazine of our high school, in 1963.

In 1969, I went back home for a visit after I had married and was teaching far away. I do not remember seeing anything of mine in the house; not my book collection, including Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, nor the WWII model aeroplanes (Dad had been an RAF fighter pilot in the war) and model vintage cars that I’d had in my bedroom. Strange as it may seem, I never asked where my things had gone.

My school in 1959 (I was in 5th grade then)

Another strange thing: when St Paul’s, my old primary school, celebrated the centenary of the St Joseph sisters in 1983, they produced a booklet about the teachers and the school. There were only three teachers, all nuns, when I attended, though it is a large school now. Daybreak, the Centenary booklet, contains quite a few old class photos. Both my sisters and both my brothers are in there, but I am not – and we could never afford to buy school photos.

Similarly, at the state high school my husband and I had attended for five years, many student records were destroyed in a major flood about twenty years ago. The only records lost were those from the exact years we were there, 1961 to 1965. It is as if we had never been there – apart from my name in the school magazines I was able to buy.

In many ways, I feel like I have lost a major part of my childhood. Most of my ‘history’ has gone. It doesn’t help that I also have only a fragmented memory of those times.

Perhaps as a result of all this, I tried not to throw anything out that belonged to my five children. I don’t know what they still keep from these items – all 5 being boys, and movers about the country to find good careers, I suppose they haven’t bothered – and somehow, I only have a few of their things myself.

Thirty-five years ago, I began researching and putting together the family history. I have written a book, in two editions, about our family antecedents, including historical and social conditions of the times. It focuses in greater detail on the individuals since about 1850. Years of research made me well aware of the importance of records in establishing the life of any individual in any time.

But to know a person, we need to have more of them beyond bare genealogical details. And that has led to my being designated as ‘family historian’. In order to save what I can of us as individuals, I have become a hoarder of my own memorabilia and anything associated with my family. I have only a few of my parents’ small possessions – which are virtually all that remain of their lives, apart from memories that fade over time. These too will be lost as my generation and our children die out.

My published novel, Ben’s Challenge, and its sequel, Ben’s Choice, my current work-in-progress, are based on childhood memories and experiences in the area in which I grew up. I wanted to pass on the knowledge of those times to the children of today, especially to my own grandchildren. Instead, I find that the first book has ignited memories in older folk who lived during those times, and they have enjoyed being taken back to their childhood.

I think the books may also be a search for my own past. Perhaps I have never gotten over the loss of what was really my own childhood identity.

What items do you treasure from your childhood?

© Linda Visman,

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5 Comments »

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  1. I recently read an article – I forget where I saw it – about how modern technology means one day there may well be very few memories of us. How many of us now have photo albums? Most pictures are digital? Hand written or typed letters? Email is faster… sad to think that future generations may not have mementos of themselves to pass to their children.

    Great read!

    • Yes, that concerns me too, and I have written a couple of previous blog posts on that issue. I have also started making scrapbooks of my best photos, so that there will be something there for the future. Trouble is, I have about 10 years of back photos to catch up on! :-()

  2. […] written about ‘losing my history’ through a lack of artefacts from my childhood. But there is more to the loss than that. The simple […]

  3. I treasure my Teddy Bear that Santa gave me when i was six, and a couple of dolls. Much of my early treasures, including most books, has been lost.

    • It’s a pity we lose those early mementos, Margaret – they were important to us then, and sometimes helped shape our perceptions of the world.
      Thanks for calling in. 🙂


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