Just yesterday, I ate a crisp for the first time in a long time. The taste and texture were just like those my nana served when I was young, throwing me into memories of time spent on the family farm. I wrote the piece below while lost in these unlocked moments. I hope you enjoy my fond recollections.
The Unlocking of Memories
The crisp crunches in my mouth, transporting me to a Sunday afternoon twenty years ago. At the family farm, Nana has laid out the weekly feast. Soft, buttered bread, platters of meat, sliced egg, salad, crisps, and so much more at the savoury end. And the sweet end? Chocolate buns, Victoria sponge cake, rock cakes, and, if I’m lucky, a trifle. No one frowns when I heap up my plate, nor when I go back for more. It’s always savoury then cakes, and perhaps a slice of bread after that.
Usually, we sit at the huge table that fills the dining room, place settings surrounding this grand offering. When family from afar visit and we exceed the table’s capacity, we take laden plates to the cosy chairs, ample in number, and watch Scrapheap Challenge in one room, Antiques Roadshow in the other. Round after round of tea is served to the adults, while us younger folk have tall glasses of the fizzy drink we rarely have at home.
This memory leads to others, and I jump between them. On Bonfire night, we watch fireworks and dancing flames, then move inside for vegetable soup to warm us, hotdogs, and jacket potatoes. On Boxing Day, we devour yet more turkey with all the trimmings, including my favourite Yorkshire puddings in the entire world. Christmas pudding follows, with trifle, and sherry log – only a small helping of that for us children. When our stomachs are fit to burst, we go for a walk, knowing we’ll return to near endless presents followed by a banquet even greater than those we have on Sundays. I didn’t know then how fortunate I was.
More memories fly past. The feather mattress that tries to swallow me. The cockerel who wakes me at dawn, long after Nana and Grandad rise. Hunting for eggs, brushing down ponies, raising ducklings, and using the oven to revive a chick everyone thought dead.
A small memory catches me. It’s a little after harvest, and the straw is being baled in the fields. I’m too little to help lift them into stacks, but I flit between watching everyone’s efforts and tramping down the stubble that will soon be ploughed into the ground. Something moves along a tramline in the corner of my eye, and my head snaps towards the tiny fieldmouse. My first thought is of the huge tractor wheels that will soon pass this way. The mouse is so small, I decide to save it.
Like a cat, I pounce. Once, twice, and I have it. Some small part of me realises I never expected to catch it, so I put it in my pocket and run across three fields, back to the farmhouse where Nana is cooking the midday dinner. I open the door and call her out, then show her the mouse quivering at the bottom of my pocket. She is surprised but smiles, then reminds me it belongs in the field. Still elated at my successful hunt, I race back and put the little creature near where I found it, in a stack of bales I know won’t be moved that day. Then back to the farmhouse I go, and over dinner, I tell Grandad and Pat that I’m a mouser.
My mousing days are far behind me, so I’ve forgotten what that delicious meal was. I like to remember it as sausages with home-fried chips, followed by freshly baked apple pie drowned in cream, topped with a sprinkling of sugar. I’ve never found chips or apple pie that come close to the ones Nana made.
She was an amazing cook and baker, a green-fingered gardener with dozens of hanging baskets and rose bushes, as well as being the person who tended the horses and chickens. I have so many fond memories with Nana, even the time she found me covered in blood after the farm cat clawed my head – apparently farm cats are quite capable of rescuing themselves from the straw stack’s summit.
Those happy days visiting the farm stretch from my earliest memories to a heart-breaking day in 2019, just weeks before the birth of my daughter. Now that Nana is gone, I wish I’d visited more after moving away from home. Her kindness and hard work brought our family together, weaving these memories into my soul. Though time locks away such precious moments, sometimes all it takes is a single crisp to open the door and bring everything rushing back to warm my heart.