It always amazes me, the randomness with which we remember stuff. The way we have just about no control over what information we can still access in a couple of years time. When I was about ten years old, I was hit by a car. Me and a friend, who had recently moved to a different part of town, were out riding our bikes. He was going home and I’d decided to accompany him for about half the distance. When we were at that point I turned around in the street.
We were having baked potatoes that night. That, I remember. I have no recollection whatsoever of the car coming from the opposite direction, nor do I remember steering my right in front of it. The only reason I know I was flung over the hood and landed head first on the grassy fields next to road instead of on the hard concrete is because my parents reminded me of that fact many times when warning me on my cycling antics. My memories come back at the time when I became aware of lying in an ambulance. Not that I see an image of the interior of an ambulance itself, but I remember the way it felt to be inside of one. It was strangely exciting since I did not combine this experience with the realisation that this meant I was probably in an accident and had gotten hurt. Was my mother in the ambulance with me? Perhaps, I don’t know.
Once in hospital, x-ray photos were taken. I remember seeing machines, nog what they looked like. If I try I can still taste the warm, pink custard-like substance I had to eat. Likely since that stuff helped the doctors see more. IT didn’t taste good. Nothing like strawberries. I’d imagine they tried to make the stuff taste like strawberries, but they failed miserably. I’d have preferred baked potatoes over that stuff any day. I loved my mum’s baked potatoes. They were there. Both my mother and my father. I wanted them to take me home, but they didn’t.
I had already had an unfortunate run in with a car just a year earlier. I was out on my bike that time as well. Both times I rode right in front of the car. The earlier experience meant that the hospital felt not familiar but ‘known’ to me. Nonetheless I still suffered from severe homesickness.
I was lying in my hospital bed, it was dark. Impossible the say anything about the time. There were a couple of other kids on the same ward. All of them girls, all of the older, all of the asleep. That’s what I remember. I don’t remember any pain or even discomfort. I remember being sad about not having my favourite stuffed dog with me and being relieved about that as well. It saved my from embarrassment and potential ridicule when one of the other children would wake up. I felt a weird kind of loneliness, it’s a slightly hurtful kind of loneliness that nowadays, I actually find pleasant. As a child, it just hurts. Other than homesickness and lonely, I was also afraid and I couldn’t sleep. So I buzzed the nurse. This was a pretty major step for me since I was a very shy child.
“What is it?” the nurse snarled at me when she finally arrived. I don’t remember her dress, hair or face, just the hard and strict expression she wore in her eyes and around her mouth. I timidly replied that I couldn’t sleep. Decades later, but I also remember the slightest way in which she rolled her eyes dismissively. ” You’ve only been trying for a couple of minutes…” and without any further explanation or conversation she walked away. I lay awake for a long, long time that night, but I was too afraid to touch the buzzer again. Finally I must have fallen asleep, because when I opened my eyes my dad was suddenly there. He looked pale.
At this point another random memory jumps in. Me and a couple of friends, whose names I have completely forgotten, liked pretending we were a rock band. Wearing leather jackets and with instruments made out of old cardboard boxes we played along to music on the radio. My father had brought the latest album of the rock band we pretended to be most of the time. It was the first album I ever owned. Obviously, being in a hospital, we couldn’t play the album yet, but in the sleeve of the album there was a sheet with all the lyrics. The girls on the ward apparently knew all the songs, the melodies at least, and with the lyrics they sang all the songs. Some several times. Random memory, was of the girls sang hopelessly out of key.
Another memory form the hospital: the horrible plastic cheese in the morning which I couldn’t bring myself to eat. The doctors informed my parents that if I wouldn’t eat, I couldn’t go home. I felt a slight panic when hearing this. If they could just bring me some chips, I’d eat that, I offered.
My older brother wasn’t, for some reason, allowed on the ward. I waved to him through a glass wall. He must have been allowed in some sort of playroom, because I vividly recall him reading to me in there. It was a story about two adventurous dwarfs. Nurses in white carrying trays, the way the morning light shone in through the thin curtains, the thick metal bars surrounding the bed covered with the off-white dimpled sheets. Mum brought a soft toy to keep me company a night, I have always been a sucker for soft toys.
After a couple of nights with little sleep and a couple of days with little eating the doctors said I could go home. I don’t remember anyone telling me I could go home, but I do remember the sliding doors at the reception opening and seeing our car parked outside, waiting to take me home. After a couple of minutes of nothing I can recall the bed in the living room, right in front the window facing the playing field outside of our house. There were cards, presents, family and friends. All for me. I jumped on the bed and felt better already. I saw some kids playing a tag game outside on the field. On the bed was a red and blue dotted blanket. And do not know why that would be so important to remember, but I do. Like I said, memories can be just so random.