Sweet treat from big brother helped me over a birthday party disaster

When do we become aware and do we remember the moment or is it just another step along life’s highway when we take so many that we cannot recollect them all?

There are those who feel they became aware soon after birth (some even believe it happens in the womb) and they can “recall” things that happened when they were very young.

Are you aware of the moment you took your first step; or when you first liked, or disliked, certain foods or drinks; are you one of those who can “recall” the arrival of a new baby in the family, hot on your heels?

Most of these “memories” come from seeing pictures or being told stories.

I know that when I was a baby my older brother plonked a bowl of porridge on his head as though it was a soldier’s tin helmet. He might remember it because he is almost four years older than me but my memory has been created by members of the family telling me the story. I think my brother might have recounted it himself at times.

I do have some form of memory of my early years as a child in Chesham. I remember the nuns at the infant school my sister and I attended for about a year; I remember Joy, the girl across the road who was two or three years older than me but acted at times like a big sister, making me laugh, keeping me safe.

The only memory of my early years that made any impression on me (physically as well as mentally) was at my brother’s birthday party in our first year in Rhyl. The memory remains etched in my mind because it involved fire and my face.

We had all been sitting around the table having birthday tea and it came time for big brother to blow out the candles on his cake. We then all had a slice of cake on a plate in front of us and mine still had a candle in it.

Having seen big brother blowing out the candles I wanted my turn and someone, I don’t know who, lit the candle for me.

As I leaned forward to blow it out a gust of air wafted up the paper napkin tucked into my jumper and it caught the flame before continuing its upward rise to kiss my cheek, ever so gently – then came the pain because the burning paper was stuck to my cheek.

After that I remember very little. Apparently one of my mother’s friends had grabbed me and wrapped my head and upper body in her coat to extinguish the flames. Her actions almost certainly saved my charming good looks but at the time it was just pain.

I don’t know if our doctor, a family friend, was present or arrived within minutes but I was given some form of sedative which knocked me out for a few hours. When I came round, lying on the settee with a travel rug over me, the first person I saw was my big brother. The rest of the family was almost certainly there but it was his face imprinted on mind.

It was not his words but his action that gave me the strongest memory.

He had saved me the last Iced Gem which, as birthday boy, it would have been his right to claim for himself, and proffered it to me.

I tend to associate birthday candles with danger but Iced Gems always make me think of my big brother.

For some weeks after that my mother had to regularly change the dressing on my cheek to ensure it healed properly. I remember the dressings well, They were lint squares soaked in some form of gelatinous ointment. She had to remove the old dressing carefully so as to pull nothing away with it, then bathe my cheek with cotton wool and some form of disinfectant (probably Dettol as we seemed to use that for everything) before applying a new dressing.

She did this two or three times a day for four or five weeks and I can still see the flat square tin those dressings were kept in – the lid was blue and the tin the same grey as our pots and pans.

I suppose it was lucky Dad was a chemist and had all the things needed to treat my wound.

I don’t know if they make Iced Gems any more but they will always remind me of the kindness of my big brother.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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