Part of the 52 Week Blog Challenge
Having lived through a whole childhood, I obviously have a lot of childhood memories. Most people do, unless they’re incredibly bad at remembering things. So this week’s blog post is a bit of an odd one, as the given title is so vague. I decided to focus on a theme: writing.
Most of you will know that I am a writer. Not a published author (yet, I hope), but a writer in the way that, as much as eating and breathing, I write. I’ve made up stories for as long as I can remember and it occurs to me that certain parts of my childhood are the reason for that.
Jack the Monkey
Jack is my favourite childhood toy. I received him on the day I was born from my mum’s neighbour, and we were inseparable every night since. Even now I’m an adult – yes, I confess it – he sits on the side of my bed at night, because it feels wrong to put him in a cupboard somewhere after all this time. I blame the Toy Story film series.
The first stories I remember being told came from my dad. He used to read me a story at night, and then using Jack as a puppet, use the toy monkey to tell me to go to sleep. Jack was an oddly expressive toy if you squished his face in different ways, so my imagination ran riot as a young girl. After my dad said goodnight, I’d wait until he went downstairs and promptly start playing with Jack and my other toys until I fell asleep. The only exception to this was Christmas Eve, when I’d share my parents’ bed with my siblings, leaving my toys in my bedroom.
In the Goodacre household, Christmas Eve is a magical night, when all toys come to life until dawn. Sure this could not be true, I’d position my toys in a certain way and memorise where they were before going to bed. Every morning after opening our stocking presents, I’d go back upstairs to get dressed and, sure enough, they would all be in wildly different places. It fueled my imagination fiercely.
An appropriate name for my favourite teacher in the world. Mrs. Goode, my Year 3 teacher, is the person who first told me I should grow up to be an author. So much time has passed, I can’t even remember what story I’d written that caused her to say it, but she told me I was an excellent writer, and I should definitely keep it up. She explained to me that there were people in the world who wrote books for a living and, if I worked hard enough, I could be one too. Before then, I hadn’t really given much thought to the people who wrote the books I so voraciously read, but from that day on, I was determined to be one of them. As thanks to her, I promised on the spot I would dedicate my first published book to her, which is a promise I fully intend to keep. She might not remember the conversation or how much she shaped my life with just a few words, but I do.
And now we get to the embarrassing part of the blogpost, when I confess that as a child, I was ridiculously obsessed with little plastic dogs. I owned hundreds of these little guys, and when I wasn’t writing or reading, I’d be lying on my stomach hashing out elaborate heists and war stories. You see, my puppies and kittens were never just puppies and kittens. They were spies and superheroes, and Mafia bosses. There was one particular cat, a white Persian in a little pink basket, who I imaginatively called ‘Boss Cat’, who hatched evil schemes to take over the world and rid it of all things canine. Thinking about it now, these stories probably had something to do with the fact that I didn’t like cats until fairly recently. My favourite memory of this series of stories was that Boss Cat had created a monster called Goliath (my Gargoyle action-figure). Whenever Boss Cat caught a puppy spy, he would line them up on the balcony of the Puppy-in-my-Pocket Dreamhouse and Goliath would shoot them off, execution style.
… come to think of it, that explains so much about me.
I’ve been fascinated by the concept of magic for years. Like many others, I read Harry Potter as a child and was sucked into JK’s world oh-so-willingly. I felt like crying when I didn’t receive my Hogwarts letter when I was eleven, because I truly hoped I had some magical ability. I still love the stories today, quite happy to curl up with POA or GOF and a big mug of tea. Oddly enough, the link to my childhood isn’t the stories, though – it’s the smell of these books. Harry Potter books, probably due to the binding glue, have a certain scent. Experts say sense of smell links strongly with memories, and it’s true. As a child, I read Harry Potter so much, the smell of the book permeated many memories. Whenever I open a Harry Potter book now, the scent of the pages brings alive more than just the Boy Who Lived, but little childhood memories I’d temporarily forgotten, like being in the car with my nan on the way to Camber Sands, or waiting in the hospital for my brother to get his collarbone fixed.
Now that I’m older, I still retain the love of Harry Potter, and it shapes my life in odd ways. For example, a few years ago, I found myself ‘officially’ sorted into Hufflepuff. This surprised me at the time, because I – as most did – considered myself a Gryffindor. But the more I learned about Hufflepuffs, the more appropriate the sorting seemed, and I have embraced the hallmark aspects of the House into my life: Just, Loyal and Patient. I feel that trying to emulate these qualities has made me a better person, which is crazy when you think about it spawning from fiction, and just goes to show the impact a good story can have on people:
In 2014, The Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that kids who read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series are more likely to reduce their prejudices toward minority groups, [reported by Pacific Standard]. The researchers … noted that the books provide plenty of examples of bigotry, on which children can then form an opinion. From Harry’s defense of “mudbloods” like his friend Hermione, to Voldemort’s obsession with “pure-blood” witches and wizards, kids were able to recognize the unfairness in these instances and subsequently attach them to real-world examples of prejudice.
Discoveries like this make me all the more determined to write stories that have a positive impact on the people who read them. There are plenty of examples of real world prejudice happening right now, and none of them are okay. If the next generation of readers can discover this for themselves through fiction – like so many of us must have from our own childhoods – the better.