By Maeve Winters
When confronted with the phrase ‘my earliest memory’, what initially springs to mind? Were you five? Or four? Or are you lucky enough to remember being just three years old?
I fear that many of us living the hectic NUI Galway life think only seldomly of our earliest memories, if at all. Between exams, weekend jobs, nights out, the struggle of maintaining contact with schoolfriends who’ve moved away (or stayed home, depending on the individual) and the even bigger struggle of paying the extortionate rent to which many of us are obliged, it’s pretty easy to forget about everything except the present. Save, of course, for those omnipresent flurries of fear relating to the big, universal unknown commonly referred to as ‘the future’. But… what about the past? The only state of time that’s constantly had all of our backs, and carried us into becoming where, and who we are now?
Generation Z is often stereotyped as being ‘the first generation not to recall a time before the internet’. While I can’t speak for any other members of this generation, I can nonetheless disprove this statement, by using myself as an example. Casting my mind back to c. 2005, I remember snuggling up under a warm double duvet with my mum and my little brother. I was around five at the time. This seemed to happen every rainy Saturday morning, and in the absence of the internet, we would watch cartoons (with the occasional Roald Dahl adaptation or Bob Ross episode thrown in) for hours at a time. Anyone else would probably have been driven demented by two children barely past the toddling stage bursting into their room before 8 a.m. on a weekend morning, but not my mum. She often jokes that she would only stick certain programmes on because she immensely enjoyed them herself! Between Scooby Doo, The Teletubbies, Blue Peter and, of course, the wonderful Recess, Mum could see the beauty in all of them, an ideal which I’ve always strived to achieve. I can still see the BFG’s Sophie spiraling through some kind of nineties-esque, kaleidoscopic vortex on our crackly, eight-inch T.V., the box longer than the screen, and remember loving every moment of it.
My world back then seemed so small and safe. I remember making baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanos on the huge rock left untouched by the builders in our back garden, baking tray upon tray of homemade fudge and sometimes playdoh, meandering down our little bo’reen to pet next door’s newest baby donkey, spending endless hours whacking a tennis ball against the wall on a sunny day (my dad, being the clever man that he is, left the wall at the gable end of the house free from any downstairs windows when he designed our home, for this very purpose). I know that my childhood experiences are probably unique and sure, it’s possible that not everybody in our midst remembers a time before the internet, but whatever your earliest memories are, I’d like to invite you to look back on them every now and then, especially when the present’s getting you down. To ground yourself with carefree memories of a time before assignments, emergency tax, puberty, and maybe even before school. Look back at your favourite childhood cartoon, or even try belting a ball against a wall (trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds!). Because no matter how awful today seems, all it may take is a hosepipe in the sun to return to that freedom once more.