And then I was three.
I was incredibly blonde as a child. Incredibly blonde, with chubby little cheeks and a dimple on the left hand side of my grin.
Like a cherub.
Like an angel.
Like something you couldn’t imagine backing into the room with bottom high in the air, knickers around ankles, looking over one shoulder to steer, and waving, with the other hand, a long piece of toilet paper shouting ‘muu-mmeeeeeeeee, can you wipe my bott-tummmm?’ at the top of her voice. It was kind of a little sing-song request, and tuneful at that. Anyone in the family can probably recall the tune to it still.
And quite a lot of other people.
You see, I don’t think this would have been so bad if my mother didn’t hold so many church meetings in the living room opposite the toliet.
Now, I don’t know whether I remember that because I actually remember it, or because it’s been mentioned by my family so often, or whether it’s simply because I didn’t stop doing it until I was 19.
I’m kidding about the last one, of course.
I was 21.
Again, I’m kidding.
But, the thing is, for me, as for most people, memories from this age are going to be a mixture of family legend, conjecture from well-thumbed photo albums and actual memory.
For the longest time, I’ve believed my first memory to be a birthday party, and I’ve decided, at some point, that it must have been my third birthday party, and so that’s what we’ll say it was.
My nana came. That’s one central part of the memory.
I don’t think it would be possible for a little girl to be more in love with my nana than I was with mine. We saw her almost every holiday, taking the train from London to Liverpool and the ferry to the Isle of Man. And I associate her with gardens and pebbledash and reclining chairs and the colour orange and the smell of sun in a closed room and sand and lots of other things. Also we shared the same birthday, which made the whole thing specialler. Yes, it’s a word.
So I remember a sunny day, and a round tablecloth with flowers on, and picnic things, and then my nana arriving, walking over toward the picnic and my mother telling me to look who had arrived.
And then I don’t remember much else about her being there, so I’m guessing I was excited about it for about a minute before running off to find more jam sandwiches.
My best friend, at that point, was called Anna. This wasn’t as hilariously confusing at the time as might have previously been thought, because I was Jo. So that’s that, really, name-centred-comic-potentialwise.
But I do remember Anna – whose dad owned a D.I.Y interior design fittings shop called Knobs and Knockers (a name always as likely to pull a disapproving face from my mother as a giggle from my older brother and sister) – and I remember she was there, and she was crying, and wailing that she wanted her dad, and she wanted to go home, and making ever such a racket about the whole thing.
And I remember standing nearby, silently seething, wishing that someone would just put her out of her misery, or at least go and get her bloody dad, because she was crying really loudly and it was ruining MY party.
And that’s what leads me to think this really was my first memory, because it’s the emotion – of being really cross about someone else being the centre of attention at my birthday party (mine!) – that I remember better than anything else.
It’s so nice that we can grow out of these things. Well, some of these things. Not the dimple, still got that. And the secret seething at sometimes not being the centre of attention. I still get that, too (look, you can grow up all you like, but you’ll still be the youngest child….)
But the walking into my mum’s front room backwards, waving toilet paper and requesting a sing-song wipage?
Grown out of that.
Which is a bloody good thing, because my mum lives in the Inner Hebrides. And that’s a long way to walk backwards. And cold.
(What is this ’28/28′ thing? What the hell is going on? Confused? Ah, well then, you should read this. It will inform you. Also, it has important birthday information)