Although you probably won’t believe me, but growing up in Dortmund in the 60s and 70s was fun. We had no car, we had no telephone, we had no bathroom, we had not washing machine. But I had a bicycle. My mother made Apfelkuchen. My father smoked cigars non-stop, all given to him by grateful patients. He enjoyed them a lot. My mother didn’t – not just because the intense smok interfered with the Apfelkuchen (mit Sahne), but, more importantly, with here “Stores”. “Store” being the German (!) word for a white, long, heavy-ish, semi-transparent curtain (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Store). Not only do ‘Stores’ no longer exist, I think, but even the word itself has been purged from the German language and I had forgotten about it altogether until today. Must have been the Thank-you-for-travellling-with-Deutsche-Bahn-coffee on my way from Hamburg to Cologne on a train that is an unheard-of 32 (not 32 or 33, but 32!) minutes late. I guess that his what privatisation does!
But back to my father’s cigars.
He sent me cuttings from the Ruhr-Nachrichten, our local Dortmund newspaper, to Salamanca in 1980/81 where I spent what probably was the best year of my life (not least because I met Pat there). They came in A5 brown envelopes and brought not just the news from my home town but also the smell from our house to Salamanca, the smell of cigar smoke.
Many years later, when I went through old papers and when my father had long passed away, the envelopes and the cuttings still carried the smoke with them. And the memories.
There are many triggers to bring back the past. Music. Place. Taste. Smell. Sound. You’re minding your business, go along with your daily life, do what you’re doing. Then something happens and it throws you off.
You start dancing thinking you’re still 18 – and don’t worry about anyone watching. You sing at the top of your voice that song you always sang when you were happy – and never mind that you’re a few half-tones off. You close your eyes and breathe in deep, and again – and people long gone come back to life. You eat ‘pulpo’ in a Hamburg Tapas Bar and remember that day you bought this (then) insanely expensive specialist Gallego dish in a bar in Madrid, thinking this would be far to strange for any kid to enjoy – and then watch young Pádraig enjoying it with immense gusto, not really being interested in sharing this délicatesse with anyone.
There are constant reminders and memories of the other life being triggered by uncontrollable circumstances. It triggers a strong very physical reaction and feels as if my body was flushed, being drained from head to the toes in one big wave. The mind wonders off. Tears appear. Until rationale takes over again and tells me that memories don’t have to be sad. That they are good to have and to treasure. And that every second of our life we make new memories. Memories we don’t realise today we will treasure so much in the future.
We’ve been telling Pádraig about going to Pforzheim next Sunday. That we will be there for six weeks. And that it’ll be a big change from our routine in Hamburg. There will be different people. A very different atmosphere with not just us, but loads of others being around. The main therapy room there is like a gym with loads of activity. There will be very regular meals and a time table that will be close to that of a real training camp.
We will take with us memories from Hamburg. And there will be new memories.