Childhood. Memories of childhood are often stories we heard over and over again, told about things we did, things we said, events that happened. Some of them are probably real memories, but I presume that among them are those that we don’t actually remember, though we have heard the story so many times that it appears like we do.
This one I am going to tell you about is one such ‘memory’ since I cannot for certain say whether it is actually a memory (though it does seem like it is), or it is a set of images in my head formed from hearing the story so many time. I don’t know how old I was, but for sure less than 10. My mum, dad and I were going to see my favourite (great) aunt. She was my dad’s aunt, to be precise. The fact that she was the only aunt I knew does not minimise the fact she was a ‘favourite’. I always loved our visits to her. We went on the tram from our apartment to hers, yet we split the journey into half and on the way we stopped for some ice-cream. It wasn’t a long journey but I suppose we were not in a hurry. It was a nice sunny day, summertime perhaps, and we went to one of the ice-cream places near the main square in Zagreb and ordered ice-cream for each of us. I remember it was a side street that led to a so-called ‘Flower square’. We sat outside and ordered our ice-cream, just it wasn’t merely ice-cream, it was a cocktail, a cup, which not only looked nice and was richly presented but on top of it each of the cups had some alcohol in it. Mine was supposed to have the weakest beverage, and naturally the cup for my dad had the strongest. We could never tell whether these two cups were mix-ed up for I in effect got drunk! Not drunk in a way that I wasn’t able to walk, talk, or that they had to carry me. Drunk in a way that I laughed uncontrollably, loudly and at everything. Fits and fits of laughter interspersed with my mum trying to put her hand on my mouth to hash me from saying something inappropriate, which I was just about to say as we were back on the tram, the second leg of the journey towards my aunt’s house.
I wish I knew what happened after, but that is where my memory stops. It is like a photo or a film from the past zoomed into this one event from that one day of my early life. The rest was somehow cropped through the retelling of this tale and fell into the oblivion. I tried to recreate the rest of the journey, especially my aunt’s reaction by asking my dad about it, but he doesn’t remember either. For a proper lady that my aunt was, it must have been a shock when my parents brought a ‘drunk child’ to visit her, but knowing her good-hearted humour I would not be surprised had she joined me in laughing.
When I think of my childhood, I think I was a happy child. Not much was needed for me to be satisfied. Later one could say I developed a contemplative nature of admiring beauty and enjoying silence, but as a child I knew nothing of those things yet they seemed to have been ingrained in my own personality. I loved my own company even then, and I never lacked creativity to fill the space with imagination. I had a few favourite toys and they were my regular play-mates. As for meals, I find it hard to tell which was my favourite one. For breakfast I loved pâté on bread with onions or tomatoes aside. I no longer like onions, but it could as well be that while growing up I stared to ‘think’ more of what I eat and not merely eat what I liked.
Recently I was talking to one of my housemates while she was making an improvised dessert and remembered how when I was a child my dad used to make a quick dessert for us. My mum has always been an expert when it comes to culinary things, but this particular sweet treat was reserved for my dad to prepare. Don’t think of anything fancy, it would in fact go under a category of ‘low-budget’ desserts, but we loved it. Do you know what it was? An egg yolk with a bit of sugar whisked for three to five minutes until it was ready to eat. The fresher the egg, the better this dessert was. It was yummy! When the bubbles started to create from whisking that was a sign the ‘whisked egg’ was ready. We had a name for it that does not fully translate from Croatian into English, but what does translate is beauty of a memory of a small child who very early on learned to appreciated little graces in life.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 20th April 2015)