Happy New Year Everyone!
Thank you to all of you who worked over the last few weeks to keep us all safe and sound. The NHS has struggled again, both due to the recurrent winter pressures as well as the impact of the Omicron Covid surge. Everyone is exhausted, frustrated and cannot believe that we are having to manage this yet again. Am really hoping that 2022 sees the conversion of the Covid-19 pandemic to an endemic and that we find a way to live with it.
Some of us finally enjoyed a few days off over Christmas and New Year, time to recharge our batteries in an ever demanding and fast paced life. These few days of headspace found us watching old films, eating too much and catching up with friends and family. Finally laughing, hugging and enjoying the shared memories created through living and working together. Missing those who were not allowed to travel and connecting through the wonders of technology.
And we remembered. Remembered those who have died but have moulded our lives. Our parents were fundamental to this, and we considered how they would have struggled in the environment of vulnerability and isolation secondary to Covid. How we would have felt guilty trying to balance the desire to see them with the risk of Covid transmission, given our NHS jobs.
This holiday season has always been special for us. As my parents worked as market traders, Christmas was always one of the busiest times. Long, cold days standing in the markets with frozen toes and fingers. Wrapped up in so many layers but still needing to keep moving to stay warm. Ensuring that as much stock as possible was sold ahead of a quiet January, when everyone stopped spending as money ran out. Christmas music playing in the markets, dreading that it would snow or rain heavily as this would wipe out a day of trading. Enjoying hot chocolate and baked potatoes which were abundant as well as special Welsh chocolate fudge. Evenings spent taking reams of Christmas wrapping paper and folding them into bundles of 10 for sale the following day. So, so many memories.
Our parents, like so many others, worked hard to ensure that we had opportunities that had escaped them. The holiday season ensured that they took time off, some of the very few days when we had time as a family at home. Our family traditions evolved as we adopted Christmas into our lives. Cooking Mummy’s special Indian spice marinated leg of lamb rather than turkey (as Daddy found it too dry) and a spiced sausage plait on Boxing Day. Lots of chocolate oranges, Shloer, matchmakers and some mulled wine! As we sold toys on the market stall, Christmas presents were abundant but we were never spoilt. I loved jigsaws so was easy to please! We laughed as to how Mummy and I would open a present on Christmas Eve as we could not wait for Christmas Day and how Daddy was impossible to buy for! He would always end up with cardigans and socks, and in the latter years, honey.
Mummy and Daddy embedded that family was important alongside working hard and being honest. Basic rules of the family intertwined with the pride of being Indian and Welsh. Their desire was that we achieved over and above what they had and they had so much pride in all three of us. They are no longer here, but their investment remains strong. It infuses how we live our lives and envelopes the culture that we develop for our children.
The memories are strong, and are replayed so many times. Triggered by pieces of music, by a meal, by watching an old film. Still can’t watch Columbo without thinking of Daddy and eating a knickerbocker glory without thinking of Mummy! Memories come flowing back, sometimes of a single sentence or a conversation. Other memories are much stronger including the heat of the sun, the sound of waves and the smell of the sea.
Living in Penmaenmawr, we loved the beachfront and it has the most incredible flat sandy beach. In the early years there was a paddling pool and a huge slide (both now closed due to health and safety, sadly). Daddy always had German Shepherds who needed so much exercise, so walks were mandatory. They would love running on the beach and I used to be fascinated seeing their and our footprints in the sand. We would dig holes and build sandcastles and when we returned the next day, they were gone but the memory lived on. This was special time, talking to my Daddy about so many things and always being encouraged to think differently. Encouraged to be ourselves despite being different to those around (yes even in the sleepy back waters, the P word would abound). Proud to be Indian, curious about the world, immersed in books, empowered by my adopted Welsh extended family, surrounded by the love of my family and so excited about our future.
This year we will continue to remember our parents, who lived full lives and escaped Covid. We will also remember close friends who have lost their lives due to Covid, and have left young families behind. Those who were taken where they had so much more to give, to grandchildren, to their loved ones and to the wider world. It is difficult not to be sad, and hold their memories with tears and a heavy heart. Part of this is just life, as birth and death is a natural phenomenon and as a scientist is inevitable.
The magic of memories cannot be explained by science, and are so important in our storytelling and developing and retaining our family histories. This year, my New Year’s resolution is to start writing what I remember of Mummy and Daddy so that these stories are available to my grandchildren, to empower them and show them, that they are loved based on strong foundations created by those that have gone before them.
After all, the footprints we leave physically are washed away, just like in the sands, but the footprints in our hearts stay forever.