This is the weird thought (not that weird) that I had after finding something in a souvenir shop in New Quay today.
I saw an object in a shop there and was immediately taken back to a time in my childhood,. As I gazed at the object, flooded by a memory, I could almost sense that Proust’s ghost was watching me (his most famous literary creation was taken back to his childhood after eating some mandeleine cake).
No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me…. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea (Proust, In Search of Lost Time)
I have no conscious memory of owning this object, which is a gathering of coloured stones with eyes on a bigger stone in front of a stick which reads ‘rock concert’. But upon seeing it I knew straight away that I had bought it over thirty years ago with my hard-earned holiday money and treasured it. I knew this to be true even though I no longer have this object now and obviously hadn’t thought about it for decades. I have no solid evidence that this memory is real (I need to ask my mum if she remembers). But I knew, I just knew, as I stood there in that shop today that I had owned an almost identical rock as this.
So I took a photo of this object and showed it to my husband later back on the beach. He immediately asked: ‘Why didn’t you buy it?’ I hadn’t intended to buy it. What need did I have for a tacky ‘thing’ made from pebbles? But as soon as he had planted that idea in my mind, I knew that I had to have it. I had to go back to the shop and part with £2.99. To me, as an adult, that isn’t much money. To me, as a child, the equivalent value would have been a lot of money. So I had to have it. It was fate. It was fate that we went to New Quay today. It was fate that I decided to go for a wonder around the shops by myself. It was fate that I saw this curious object and was reminded of my childhood. So I decided that I would be going against the gods if I didn’t go back and buy it. So I did.
I think I felt that I had to have it so that that feeling of being flooded with happy childhood memories would happen again, every time I looked at the object.
As I parted with £2.99, Proust smiled.