Saturday 28 September 2019

Childly perceptions - Clémentine Beauvais

I love listening to friends telling me memories from their childhood, especially when those memories tell us something of the weird, uncanny, otherworldly perceptions that children have of the world.

I know neuroscience says we can have no reliable childhood memories, that everything is a reconstruction, filtered through romantic and adult-focused visions of childhood. I think it's BS, by the way, but even if it were true, then my friends' (and my) memories of childhood would still have poetic value. Either way, they have things to teach us, I think, about how to write about and for children.

Here's a little collection:

A friend told me she thought her mother was a witch every time she brushed her hair. Hair-brushing was so painful that there was no way her kind, sweet mother could possibly be the one inflicting that pain. Therefore, during that particular time of the day, a witch took her mother's place, or else maybe her mother became a witch - my friend wasn't too sure.

A friend told me she believed her mother could read her thoughts, but only when they were both touching the same object or piece of furniture. 

A friend told me she saw door closers as a species of insects, with just one leg, similar to that of a grasshopper.

A friend told me their relationship to their father was so distant that they saw him as a kind of domestic stranger, a quiet and polite man who was there every evening, had dinner, slept there, had no other clear connection to the place. One day their mother said, 'I'm going away this weekend, so Daddy's going to look after you'. My friend didn't quite understand why her mother had chosen this particular stranger for the task.

A friend told me the washing-machine at home would repeat the same name on loop when it was on: Caroline, Caroline (pronounced the French way, Caroleen), like a desperate lover, slowlier and slowlier as it drew to an end.

A friend told me they always struggled at church to find sins to confess, so they asked a kid in the class, who always had good ideas for sins. Each sin idea cost a little bit of money or a marble. 

A friend told me that on the first day of school, her teacher asked her to draw herself on an A3 sheet of paper and she drew herself in a corner, as a tiny, tiny figure. Her teacher showed the drawing to her parents and they all concluded it was clear that she was shy. Thus she knew she was shy.

A friend told me he thought every child at some point in their life got kidnapped by someone.

A friend told me they refused to stop believing in Father Christmas, even though they knew full well he didn't exist, because then he would stop existing.

Any of yours to add?

Clémentine Beauvais is a writer and literary translator. Her YA novels in English are Piglettes (Pushkin, 2017) and In Paris with You (trans. Sam Taylor, Faber, 2018).


Susan Price said...

One of your friends' tales reminds me that, when I was very small, my father had to work a lot of late nights. I was often in bed before he came home and saw him most at weekends. One day I asked my mother, "Who is that man who comes here sometimes?" After that, my Dad worked less overtime.

A friend of mine who lived on the Isle of Man believed as a child that the whole of the UK was made up of small islands and that the football results was a list of all the islands' names. (Each island had a football team and they took ferries to play each other.)

Another friend, who was born in Pakistan, was terrified when told that she and her mother were moving to live in Britain with her father because she knew that Britain was in the clouds, where the aeroplane went, and she would have to step out of the plane onto the clouds -- and would fall down to earth because she didn't have whatever special magic it was that allowed the British to live up there.

Sue Purkiss said...

'Door closers'??

I thought that when you grew up, there was automatically a World War, because My grandparents had one when they grew up, and so did my parents. Jolly, eh!

Brenda Daniels said...

When I was little I was afraid of lorries, thinking they could somehow see me. So when I heard one coming up our road I would hide behind my bed. That way they wouldn't see me through my curtained bedroom window, and would pass harmlessly by.

On school sports days when children spelled out the team house names I thought they were reciting an alphabet I hadn't learned yet.