The yellow biscuit tin, or how the internet connected me to childhood memories
My first memory is of my mother carrying me to the window so we could wave goodbye to my father as he got into his car. I remember floating over the breakfast table with its white cups and a yellow biscuit tin painted with green and red flowers. I remember the sense of wonder when I saw my father so much smaller than just minutes before when he had left our apartment. And most of all, I remember how close my mother felt.
Is this a genuine memory? When I was two we moved from the apartment building in the centre of Rotterdam to a house in a quiet suburb, so this must have happened around that age. Is it possible to form memories that young? Or did my mother tell me about it when I was older and I imagined it so vividly that I filed it under “memories”?
Still, I’m sure she wouldn’t have mentioned the cups on the table or the yellow biscuit tin. Do I remember those from later years? Have I edited them into the memory?
It’s one of my few recollections, if not the only one, that brings about a sense of warmth and safety.
In fact, the next oldest memory is the complete opposite. It takes place on a summer evening in the house we moved to after the apartment building. I’m in my crib, the door is ajar, and I hear people talking and laughing downstairs. The cheerful voices aren’t my parents’; there must be visitors. I want to go downstairs to the living room where there’s life and laughter.
I pull myself up and try to climb out but the bars are too high. I look at the shadows of the window blinds on the wall and cry, but nobody hears me.
This longing to be with other people while something is holding me back is the dominant memory of my childhood. Seeing the shadows of blinds on a wall still brings back that feeling of confinement, while the image of the yellow biscuit tin makes me feel contented.
I’m unable to change my memories, but I can look for sources of joy. So I begin to search online for the biscuit tin. The Indonesian cherry biscuit tin from the Verkade cookie firm is available on several Dutch websites where second-hand items are sold. It was originally designed in 1932 and brought back onto the market in 1953. That concurs with my memory which, if true, dates from 1956.
While I browse vintage shopping sites, I wonder if someone else with similar memories is looking for the exact same tin at this very moment. If that’s the case, my one pleasant memory has connected me with others; this staves off thoughts of loneliness, even if it’s just for a moment.
An email arrives, and I feel a surge of warmth: my order of the biscuit tin should be here.