Josna Rege

501. The Small Things

In Books, Childhood, culture, Family, parenting, people, reading, reflections, Stories on August 15, 2021 at 12:36 am

Dad would read Anatole and the Cat (“Quelle horreur!) in his inimitable French accent.

It’s the small things I remember these days, but they seem to come all the more freighted with meaning. Things that might have irked me at the time are endearing now, and I long to hear them just one more time: Dad joking, when we children protest at his insistence on reading to us in a pseudo-French accent, that he can’t help it, he has been speaking like this ever since he visited gay Parree. My Uncle Ted insisting on teaching his one-year-old grandson Jon to jump with glee into muddy slush-puddles, shouting “Splash”, when his exhausted young mum has just finished washing and drying his snowsuit. Bob, beloved partner of my dear friend Cylla, teaching our five-year-old son to say “bottle” with a Cockney glottal stop (“bo’l”). Mum crying out with a pang of loss when I first pronounce an ‘r’ American-style. All of them gone now. All of them larger than life in my memory.

I remember those loved ones who are grown and gone, one in particular whose childish charms lit up my life for a spell. When being dressed for bed in a new all-in-one sleepsuit, a little toddler’s voice chirping, “ Is it one hundwed pooercent cotton?” (For once it wasn’t, and he could tell.) When it became clear, playing his first board game at age 3 or 4, that he was about to lose, I remember him sweeping all the pieces and players off the board in a fit of fury. But when, ten years later, mother and tween were playing a truth-or-dare-style board game and the youth answered a question about his mother’s maturity with ruthless honesty—”she is immature”—this adult role-model proved it by ending the game then and there in a fit of petulance. On the only occasion this indifferent cook made calzones—with two different fillings, on a real terracotta baking stone, mind you—the appreciative young teen declared that it was the best thing his mother had ever made, filling her with guilt about her distinctly unmemorable performance in the kitchen for the past 15 years. (She has never made them since.)


Memories of watching movies as a family, two in particular. The violent fight scenes, filled with stereotypically racialized bad guys, in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) sending the older boy-next-door bouncing off the walls in paroxysms of manic glee; whereas our son the budding film aficionado, no older than seven, seemed hardly to notice them, commenting instead on words of wisdom uttered by the Turtles’ mentors.

Watching Amadeus (1984) at about the same time, he had to leave the room, so upset was he by Salieri’s murderous envy of the young Mozart’s virtuosity. As he put it, “I would feel happy for Mozart; why couldn’t he?”

Some of these memories are glorious, some ignominious, all of them infinitely precious. Small things, but so telling.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

  1. As usual, you hit that nail right on it’s proverbial head! It’s always the little things that I remember from most of my life, particularly when thinking about loved ones all through my life.
    My poor dear Mother must have such a confusing time in her dementia fog! Yet she always remembers her children! Her face lights up whenever she sees each of us!
    I still remember the delight with which Miss Hawke greeted us as we came to visit her in
    Australia! What a lovely tea she served us, and how she brought out her Hermonite magazines and asked about various other students of hers!

    Thanks for reminding me of so many little things!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this post so much. Since we left Sam at PSU in his first apartment yesterday, I am feeling the loss of those small things especially acutely right now. Your posts always seem strike me as so personally relevant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, dear Maureen. All the best to Sam as he takes up independent off-campus college life. It must be exciting for him. And all the best to his loving mom. I think I know how you are feeling. xxo J

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes. I miss all those gone so much! It’s hard to believe so many years have passed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, Kristin. Memories of them stay with me like the photographs you create with departed loved ones sitting on the front steps next to a member of the younger generation. x J

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree, it’s those small things that add to the rich pattern of one’s remembered life. Not for nothing did I subtitle my first photo blog My New Shy (“minutiae”) The little things in life because it’s teeny details that stick in the mind often more than the trip or grand occasion that gave rise to them. Anyway, lovely mini-anecdotes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So tender. Your “little” memories brought tears…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hari OM
    …I got lost down the rabbit hole of American R’s there for a bi… and couldn’t help thinking they owe an echo to Scottish and Irish influence over time; here we roll the R much more than our southern neighbours!

    But anyway, really loved the point of your post; I too have found a few nostalgic remembrances arising. Part of the recognition of shortening time..? YAM xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re quite right, YAM, about the Scots and Irish roots of American R’s. Thanks so much for your comment.
      And yes, I do think that the increased awareness of our limited time is a factor in how precious these memories are to me. I try not to wallow in nostalgia, though, but rather to seek insight into why I remember these particular incidents and what they can reveal about the people involved and about myself. Hope all is well x J

      Liked by 1 person

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