As I write, I remember some of the moments which made me who I am, and how those moments cross over into the present. Sometimes.
Yesterday. I am 57 years old, and standing waiting for Isobel, opposite Broughty Ferry Library. It is a cold day. It’s a warm night; and I am 12 years old, returning books. The library is the way it has always been: a squat, square toad of a building. A bit pompous, like Toad of Toad Hall. I go up the steps, and push open the heavy Victorian doors: thick, varnished wood, glass panels, and brass handles. Inside, I am suddenly breathing books: which means the space in the library is endless. I return the white Barnes Wallis book to the desk, reluctantly. And I begin to pad quietly around the acres of forest floors, through terrifying wars, to nights darker than any deep sleep, where ghosts and monsters lurk.
And then I’m back here. At a laptop which did not exist then. I did not have to wait long for Isobel to pick me up in the little red car yesterday. I buckled the seat belt and Isobel took one look at my bag full of books from charity shops and rolled her eyes, in a remarkably tolerant way.
And I remember other moments too. Like one Christmas morning, and Michael and Rachel are waiting outside the living room as I check inside to see if Santa has been. Then, I open the door very, very slowly and look at both of their eager faces with a look of fake disappointment which, although it’s really bad acting I can’t hold it for more than a few seconds, and I grin. I barely get to say: “Santa was here”, before they rush past me to piles of waiting presents.
And another moment was far away. Walking on a bright path, through a vast forest near Skelleftea in Sweden. Above us, a sky more blue than sky ever was. Yellow leaves on the tall trees on either side of the path. ‘Yellow’ is however hilariously inadequate to describe the shades of gold and leaf shaped sunlight which lights our way. There’s a few of us and a horse. But I am no more than a pair of eyes watching a small boy walking beside me, his little hand in mine. Marcus, my grandson. He watches the world as we walk, with a half- smile which sometimes bubbles over into a laugh. And that is perfect.
Sometimes, in the spaces between shining baubles and red, blue, and green lights on a Christmas tree, in those mysterious dark places where there is a glimmer of something – perhaps just tinsel, or a hint of the past, I go there and walk wherever it takes me. Through a forest in Sweden. Or, beneath Seven Arches Bridge, where small birds skim across the river like small stones skimmed over the water by a child’s hand. And I know these things made me, although I’ll never know how. Yet, not knowing is fine. It’s a part of it all.