Memories or Possessions?

20140707_214456Yesterday my family and I went to Montreux to try and get last-minute tickets for Pharrell Williams. I’m a big jazz fan and I’ve always dreamt of going to the Montreux Jazz Festival (although it is debatable just how much Pharell Williams is a jazz musician). However, my children are obsessed with his ‘Happy’ song and we sing it beautifully with 3 voices in the car (I do the back-up vocals, in case you are wondering about my singing capabilities).

With the benefit of hindsight, it was perhaps not the best moment to embark upon such an adventure:

  • 9 and 11 are a bit young to really appreciate a concert with standing room only
  • the concert was late, started even later, my husband had to wake up very early this morning to catch a plane and we had to wake up early for swimming lessons
  • there was a real risk of not getting any tickets; as it is, we got the last four available after queuing for nearly 2 hours
  • the tickets were very expensive
  • we were also planning to soak up the atmosphere at the jazz festival (which has many free events outside), but it was raining on and off all day, which rather spoilt our plans
  • we nearly fainted with heat and exhaustion while waiting for the main act and my kids did not appreciate the opening act (I did though: the perfectly decent rockabilly-grungy Bosco Delrey, albeit with instruments not perfectly tuned to the size of the auditorium, i.e. it was all TOO LOUD)

20140707_214023Yet in the end, we forgot all our tiredness and moaning when the electric Pharrell Williams came on-stage with his fantastic crew and perfectly coordinated light-and-sound spectacular show. [My pictures do not do the show justice at all.] We were so close we could almost touch Pharrell and we boogied along to every song. I lifted up my older son and he waved and made eye-contact with Pharrell – so proud and overjoyed. But it was hard, hot work for their first concert experience and I’m not sure if they felt it was completely worth it.

This sparked a bit of a row between my husband and myself, as we have two very different views of what makes a childhood memorable. Neither of our families had much money when we were growing up, so we were never spoilt, but the priorities were very different for each of us. My husband’s parents spent all their money building a house and decorating it, to have something solid for their children to inherit. They are now the grandparents who always buy far too many presents for our kids: security and material possessions are clearly important to them. Meanwhile, my parents spent all their money on books, education and cultural activities or holidays. I don’t remember having a single present that I could really boast about during my childhood (on the other hand, they rarely turned down my request for a specific book), but my fondest memories are of museums, theatres and family excursions. Eating 13 ice-creams on my first day in Italy, sleeping on a park bench in Seville, getting on the wrong train in Poland and ending up somewhere completely unexpected… crazy things like that.

In front of Freddie Mercury statue

So I’ve wanted to create memories for my own children, because I feel that’s the only thing that cannot be taken away from us in life. Unfortunately, memories can be both good and bad… and you never quite know beforehand which kind you’re going to get. I’m sure it’s much easier to buy children’s affection with an Xbox or computer games (and yes, affection can be bought – children are quite materialistic after a certain age, and I don’t think it’s just mine). But perhaps I’m being selfish, choosing those things that made me happy in childhood, rather than those things which they prefer.

An ongoing debate. And sense of guilt.


15 thoughts on “Memories or Possessions?”

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the concert, Marina Sofia, even with the heat, the cost, the whole thing. What an incredible experience. I understand what you mean by the debate, too. I had the same questions when I took my then-ten-year-old daughter and a friend to De Smet, South Dakota, the ‘Little Town on the Prairie’ of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. It was a ten-hour drive, I wasn’t sure exactly what the place would be like, the whole thing. And although my daughter enjoyed the ‘Little House’ books, it was really my own childhood I remembered. And yet, we had a great time and looking back, it was well worth it.

    1. Oh, thank you for sharing this personal experience with me! Sadly, these experiences only prove their worth a good many years after, don’t they?

  2. I’m glad you got to see Pharrell in the end. It would have been heartbreaking had you not been able to get tickets.

    That’s a very difficult debate you describe, and I can see both perspectives although my most vivid childhood memories also stem from shared experiences: day trips to the beach on Sundays, walking in the New Forest in the South of England and my first concert.

    1. We had tried to set our expectations about getting tickets to low… and were planning to do some other fun activities while there to make up for it. So perhaps it would have been mainly Mama who’d have been disappointed if we hadn’t gone to the concert.

  3. I am all for memories! As an adult, I can laugh at the times that didn’t turn out exactly as planned, and I truly treasure the memories of the times spent with my family and friends. They are priceless! I can’t name you many of the material gifts that I received, unless there is also a special memory attached to it.

    1. You make a very good point: my most precious possessions are the ones that have a special memory attached to it. But perhaps this only becomes evident in retrospect, not when we are living through the experience.

  4. Very interesting post, Marina Sofia. I am definitely in favor of memories over possessions. For me, my memories (ongoing) of living in a town I love, with wonderful weather, far outweigh the fact that we can’t afford to have much if we live here. On the other hand, I am very possessive about my books. Much of our small house space is taken up with books.

    1. Ah, yes, that is one possession I am completely in favour of… and luckily, my children love reading too. We are also avid library goers.

  5. Interesting post…a couple of thoughts from me to fuel the debate…possessions never change and can be given away…memories are your own and may differ from another’s memory of the same event, they can be shared…hmmmm – Polly

    1. As if to underline this dilemma: a game arrived through the post yesterday at noon. After the initial excitement, the boys discovered it wasn’t quite as cool as they’d expected it to be, that they would have to get an update to unlock whatever they wanted to do, etc. etc. So possessions too can be disappointing… until we get the next indispensable object… and the next… and the next.

  6. WordPress ate my comments yesterday, so trying again. My answer is: Memories. Once basic physical needs are met, stuff isn’t very important. I applaud your efforts to build good memories. The weather and other contingencies aren’t your fault. Your kids will realize that, if not now then later.

    1. Thanks for your persistence with the comments, much appreciated. I think you’re right – these memories become more precious when we get older rather than in the moment.
      My children’s conclusion today was that they want to wait until they’re a bit older before they repeat the experience, so … not an unmitigated success. Ah, well, at least they’re honest.

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