Not long ago, I decided to read The Hobbit to my son. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time because this is one of my favorite books from my childhood. At that time, I was a little older than my son is now, about eleven or twelve years old. I’m pretty sure, though, that before reading The Hobbit, I’ve read the first few books in the Harry Potter series, as well as the modern novel version of Beowulf, which deals with creatures like dragons and elves. Not unfamiliar.
Although I was thrilled to witness the joy of my son’s first experience with this book, I was even more excited to be able to take this opportunity to relive my childhood memories. Rereading a book from my childhood memories brings me back to those days, as if the little boy who opened the page for the first time was still inside. I imagined a Proustian encounter—turning the page, and those buried childhood memories would emerge from the depths of my subconscious.
As a result, nothing happened. Nothing at all. It was also at that moment that I discovered that all my memory of this book was the word “adventure”, and there was a furry dwarf named Bilbo, a wizard named Gandalf, and an eccentric , the sly little villain Gollum.
To be honest, I was surprised, even a little disturbed. Until then, if you were to ask me what book I remember the most from my childhood, The Hobbit would definitely be on the list. But now that I think about it, all I can remember is that I have read this book. As for how I felt at the time, I have completely forgotten it. It is better that I have never opened it, so that I will not treat it badly for many years. left an impression on me.
The experience seemed to prove something I had long suspected: I could neither imagine nor remember what my childhood was like. Of course, I can give a rough outline, but I am afraid I will have a hard time getting me to describe the details of the time vividly.
After a frustrating “revisiting The Hobbit”, my daughter started begging me to tell me bedtime stories, my childhood anecdotes. I dug up the only two stories I had in my memory bank—the lost teddy bear, and my mother and I being stranded on the train in a snowstorm. I told them over and over again for several nights, but after that, I soon discovered that all but one I have nothing more to tell than to repeat these two stories over and over again.
I searched through my childhood memories, but I couldn’t find any stories that I could come up with. Even the only two stories I remembered were not my own childhood, but my parents’ words of my childhood. As much as I know nothing about the founding of Rome, I have no recollection of the lost teddy bear or the blizzard that trapped my mom and me.
The poet Baudelaire once said: “Genius is nothing but a childhood retrieved at will, a childhood expressed by human material means.” I have to admit that this sentence is one of the many criteria by which I identify myself as not a genius. one. I’ve always had a feeling that if I could develop an emotional connection to my childhood, my life would be richer and more authentic, and I would play my father’s role better. If I could get closer to who I was then, I believe I would be a more empathetic and understanding father to my children, and in their lives, I would be a A more creative, more instinctive being, a Baudelaire-esque genius father.
I would kneel in front of the children when they were tantrums and difficult to discipline. Of course, this is by no means begging, but an instinct to step into their world and look them in the eye.
In doing so, I often feel more compassionate, more patient, more understanding of what my children are going through, and therefore better understand myself. I sometimes think that it’s probably because, when you look down from that position, the memories buried deep inside of you are released. Perhaps, this is how childhood memories can work. The point is not a vivid representation of places, events and stories, but what happens to you when you look down a few feet.
My therapist once asked me why I rarely mentioned childhood. I told her that it was because I had a happy childhood and it was not the past that made my life full of energy and pain, but the future. She put on a skeptical look at the time, saying that the inability to summon full childhood memories on demand doesn’t mean those memories are gone or unavailable. They’re still there and kept intact in my subconscious, even popping up in my mind in unexpected ways. I may not be a Baudelaire genius, but my childhood is still alive somewhere deep within me.
Because these games let him see the process of my “rejuvenation” with his own eyes, and because the ten-year-old me is more interesting than the adult me.
When people were stuck at home with nothing to do, I bought a Nintendo classic mini-console – a small replica of an early 1990s Super Nintendo with many of the games I played as a kid pre-installed . I figured this console should temporarily meet my son’s growing need to play video games, while keeping him out of the inappropriate age of modern games that might eat away at his free time and creativity.
When I started playing Super Mario Kart with my son, I passed him easily. What’s even more amazing is that in the “two-player” mode, I suddenly felt that the distance between me and myself – the ten-year-old boy – disappeared. What I’m getting back is not memories of specific stories or events, but feelings of childhood itself, and heart-shattering muscle memories.
I made quick turns and fired the shells with astonishing accuracy, as if I had only just played the game, not as long as it had been in the past 30 years. It turned out that the real memory is not found in the book I thought it was, it was hidden in a video game that I left there as a child.
The son is not very obsessed with these games. After all, in his eyes, these are cultural relics close to the archaeological era. But he still likes to play, but not by himself, but with me, because these games allow him to see with his own eyes the process of my “rejuvenation”, and because the ten-year-old me is more interesting than the adult me.