*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*
There is a certain kind of outrage that is only felt by young children. A sense of such profound injustice and unfairness that when experienced is completely overwhelming.
One of my earliest memories is of experiencing such a kind of outrage.
We had a long haired guinea pig back then. It was black with little flappy, cabbage leaf ears, and it was called Nenette (this is the French equivalent for chick, as in a young girl). Nenette, by the way, was quite smart as far as guinea pigs went. She quickly worked out that my mother was the one who fed her, and that in the mornings (feeding time) my mother came downstairs wearing a brightly coloured dressing gown.
Every time my mother came down, Nenette went mental: squeaking like crazy, scrambling up at the edges of her cage. When my father came down however, she threw him a glance and gave a guinea-pig shrug. My father decided to test what exactly Nenette was reacting to, and put on my mother’s dressing gown one morning. Nenette went crazy. The moral of that part of the story is that if you want your guinea pig to love you, you should invest in and wear a brightly coloured dressing gown.
But I digress.
We moved into a new house — this was back when we still lived in France — with a front garden that was full of very tall grass. There was a terrace too, overlooking the tall grass, where I was allowed to sit with Nenette in my arms for cuddles. Can you guess where this is heading?
No doubt still angered at having been made a fool of by my father, Nenette leapt out of my arms and made a run for the grass. My mother was too far away to catch her, and she disappeared into the greenery. We both immediately went searching for Nenette because, as my mother explained, if Nenette escaped into the countryside it would be ‘Au Revoir Nenette’.
I searched the grass and called for Nenette (she didn’t answer). No luck.
And then, as I pushed a clump of grass aside, I came across a little snake. I found this hugely shocking, I had never seen a snake before. I yelled for my mother, saying I had found a snake. She rushed over just as it slithered out of sight. She looked into the grass where I was pointing, and found Nenette.
“There,” she said picking her up, “it wasn’t a snake that you saw, it was just Nenette running away.”
“No, I saw a snake.”
“It wasn’t a snake darling, it’s just Nenette, look.”
We went back to the terrace. I followed my mother, stiff with outrage. The anger I felt that my sighting wasn’t believed! I had seen something that to me felt very significant, and it wasn’t taken seriously! I was so outraged that I couldn’t even speak.
Now, in all fairness, the grass got mowed down soon after, and we never saw another snake. Neither did any of our neighbours. In fact, it wasn’t an area frequented by snakes, so whether I actually saw one is up for debate.
But whether I actually saw a snake or not, that feeling of outrage, of unfairness, remains one of my most vivid early memories.