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The Memory of Snow

‘Do you remember when it snowed that time,’ says my uncle, ‘when we lived at Jessie Road?’

Jessie Road in Fratton was my childhood home, before my parents divorced.

One Christmas, when I was five or six, the tiny white flakes of ice settled, turning Portsmouth white and bringing with them my first memory of snow.

‘I remember,’ I say, ‘What made you think of it?’

He smiled to himself and laughed a little.

‘I don’t know. It just came into my mind. I haven’t thought about it for years.’

We look at each other for a moment.

‘You insisted we go out walking in it,’ he said. ‘I was worried what your parents would say because it was so cold; that it might not be responsible to take you out.

‘You were so small. You refused to come back inside, insisted that we walk a while longer. I thought we’d just walk around the block, and that would be enough, but you insisted. We walked round and round, and then up to that long, old alley behind our house. Do you remember?’

‘Yes,’ I say, ‘I remember.’

There is a pause. He settles onto the sofa, his face in profile.

‘How do you remember it?’ he asks.

I struggle to answer. Then an image comes to life behind my eyes.

I consider this. ‘It’s not the same as you remember,’ I begin. ‘It’s more like lightning flashes of pictures, there and then gone.’

I see the long alley running sidelong from Fratton Road. It is coated shining white and endless. I see my purple pram.

‘Did I have my pram with me? The one I got for Christmas?’ I ask.

‘No,’ he answers with certainty, and I look up, surprised.

‘No, not your pram. You were holding my hand. I took you to the alley because the snow was so heavy. I couldn’t see where the road ended and the pavement began. I didn’t want you near the road. You were so small.’

We stare at each other, remembering.

It occurs to me that our memories, unsurprisingly, differ; he is recalling this event with an adult’s memory and I with a child’s. I think that memory is like this: rarely a subject to be agreed upon.

I look at the images again in my mind. I rearrange them; remove the pram. I cannot say for certain I had it with me that day, only that I recalled it that way when we began to talk about it.

My Uncle speaks first. ‘Do you know, I’m not sure now that you say that. Perhaps you did have that pram…’ his voice trails off.

‘The purple one,’ I prompt, ‘Corduroy material, with lines, you know?’

‘Yes.’ He draws the word out, thinking about it as he speaks. ‘Yes, I think you did have that pram with you.’

In my mind, I replace the pram, but its presence does not matter.

What matters to me, what makes this conversation worth having, is that both my Uncle and I remember that cold, white day in Portsmouth.

What matters is that some twenty-five years later, we are both remembering it.

The man and the child that walked in the snow are still the two people that now remember. But we are also different. I am an age away from the child I was; my Uncle is not the same man he was then.

I know my childhood self only from images like my pram in the snow (which may or may not be true). That child seems unreachable to me now, and for a moment our remembering saddens me.

Yet my Uncle links me to her, the five year old who was me, and I link him to the man he was then.

Suddenly, I am comforted by this: that the two people that now remember are also the same two people that went walking in the snow in Portsmouth, one Christmas when I was a small child.


This story originally appeared as part of the Arts Council funded ReAuthoring Project’s You, Me & Everyone in Portsmouth