This past week has seen the 50th anniversary celebrations of the moon landings. I was just two years old, but I swear that I can remember them. I still have a clear picture in my mind – a smokey low lit room in a west London 1930’s semi, the home of my mother’s parents. In a chair to my right, my grandfather, ailing and sick, dying of cancer, to my left, a flickering black and white image on a TV and a sound I can barely make out.
I’ve questioned my mother about this, and she has no recollection. She neither disputes or confirms – it’s possible she thinks. At the time, we would regularly visit with my grandparents in London.
The thing that’s curious for me, is that this is not a recent memory. I’ve had this vision since I was at least six years old – just four years after the event took place. It’s not something invented in my thirties. But did it really happen, did I, as a two-year-old, lean out of my crib and watch the moon landings? I recall it exactly as such. And it’s never changed or evolved – it is the same ‘blue light bouncing ambient’ snapshot I’ve revisited for over forty six years – and it’s always the same.
Jack Water is the main character and narrator in my novel, and his mother died in childbirth, when he was just six, and he tries to delve deep into his memory and remember her. But he can’t, and he says this:
“I don’t remember my mother. I wish I could and sometimes I try to summon something that resides deep inside, but I can’t. I once read the words of a songwriter who said that when he one day found an old photo album in his parents closet, he realised that everything he thought he knew or had experienced as real memories, were in fact borrowed – second- and third-hand snapshots. And I know that this is how I remember my mother – vicariously, through the photos on my father’s mantelpiece and the anecdotes of my family. It’s a good thing some days, and I am happy that I don’t know the truth. These ephemeral things have become three-dimensional to me over the years. In the end, the smiling polaroids and cine movies became my happy truth.”
Excerpt From: Dominic Penhale. “Looking for Eden.”
It doesn’t answer my question of course; did I really watch the moon landing? Rather like my mother, it neither disputes or confirms. So I’ll go with my memory of it all and say that I did. In memory of my grandfather.
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