It was 4 in the morning when my baby brother's head appeared at my bedroom doorway.
"Are you awake? Just um...well, there's a storm. And it's loud."
I gathered my duvet around myself and followed him to my parents room. They weren't there. I snuggled in my covers on one side and he snuggled in his on the other, and we watched a Mock the Week rerun, talked to the dog, and jumped every now and then at the storm.
This was at 4 o'clock this morning, my brother and I are adults, and we're more or less living in our parents' house alone until the new people move in at some point before Christmas.
Climbing into their bed, listening to the storm, watching Chip trying to be brave every time thunder sounded, with Favourite Things from The Sound of Music bouncing around my head, I felt like a child playing grown ups.
This, and a number of other recent incidents, have had me thinking about my childhood.
Firstly, a few weeks ago my cousins found pictures of a sexy fashion shoot that they had done when they were little. The photos are brilliant. Back to the camera, head turned to look directly into the lens. Down on one knee with face really close to the camera. Hands on hips, serious face, chin tilted up. They were five and ten years old. So funny.
I know that twelve years on life has more or less become one big sexy fashion shoot for a lot of us, but it still made me wish that that was how I was spending my day today. Making various sexy poses in the garden for absolutely no other reason than fun.
When was the last time you spent a whole day doing something for absolutely no other reason than fun?
Secondly, as I mentioned above, very soon a new, super lucky family, are going to be moving into my childhood home and creating new memories, which means that I am currently sorting through a lot of my own in an effort to decide what's worth keeping. During this time I have laughed, cried, cringed, and grinned, and more than anything, have well and truly wandered memory lane....
And onwards, really.
The first thing that I was super excited to find was My Sweet Love- the only boy doll you could find in the 90s which made it the best one to have as far as I was concerned. I named him Charlie and I loved him like he was real.
I had a little cot in the corner of my bedroom that I would put him into every night, and wake him up from every morning. I pushed him around in an old pushchair, fed him, dressed him, sang to him and played with him. For years. And when I found him he slotted right back into my arm as though he'd never left.
Every child that I have worked as a Nanny for has impressed me with the level of love and care they show their toys. I always marvel at how careful they are, and how much they treasure each item, so when I found my own toys I was super impressed at how well cared for they were.
I also loved naming things as a child. I decided what I was going to name my children in 1996 (and only very recently changed my mind about them- lucky I didn't have children super young!) and still love hearing about what people choose to name their children, but yesterday Chip informed me that I used to name everything.
I have no recollection of this at all but according to my little brother I used to name the waves as I jumped over them. That does sound like something I would do. Please tell me you used to do silly things like that too?
And probably the years surrounding it. I found Miss Lund's Register, in the front of which I had written: Miss Rebecca Ann Lund, age 9, class 5A, and my entire address. You know, in case I left the register anywhere and a kind stranger found it and wanted to post it back. (I actually found my name and full address written on most things I owned as a child, and do vaguely remember thinking as soon as I got something new that I must write my name and address on it in case I lose it.)
The Register was a book that my Grandma gave me- I think maybe she originally used it to keep track of her clients and didn't need it any more, but it made a seriously good register. It was just like the ones my teachers used, and I do believe I was the absolute envy of all of my friends.
There are pages in there titled "Katherine's Page" and "Lorna's Page", where I would occasionally allow a friend to have a (very rare) turn at being the teacher.
I had great fun discussing this find with my mum, my little brother Chip, and my friend Flounder, which brought on some other brilliant memories.
Chip reminded me that when we went to my Grandma's for dinner on a Thursday night, once dinner was cleared up and everyone else was sitting in the living room doing a puzzle or watching the television (the News, always the News at the my Grandparents' house. One of my mum's favourite stories is about when she suggested I take Pingu to watch at Grandma's and I cried and said I couldn't because Grandad only watched the News. Anyway...), I would go into the empty kitchen and put on my Grandma's shoes that made a nice clip clop sound on the tiles, and do an assembly for nobody.
I remember walking my pretend class into the kitchen, enjoying the clip clop sound of the shoes, and telling each member of the class where they had to sit.
Occasionally I would stand in one corner of the kitchen and do that loud, stage whisper thing that teachers do when they take their class into assembly, telling one of them to come round because there was a space here.
When I mentioned this to Flounder she told me that she would also be talking to one pretend child and interrupt herself to tell another pretend child to be quiet. She would also say to the empty air in front of her that if he was upset he could come and sit next to her, because the upset children always sit next to the teacher.
Flounder also reminded me about playing shops. Remember that?
You would set up the shop and shout that it was ready, then when nobody came you'd go into the kitchen to remind the adults that you were ready for them to come and shop now- just in case they hadn't heard. That adult would then have to keep leaving the shop and come back in as a new person. You'd also have to keep running back downstairs to collect the things you'd sold- they were your toys and you needed them back in your room.
My cousins, brothers and I also used to put on shows for our parents. My auntie and dad were always conveniently doing the washing up by the time the show was ready, so my mum, Uncle and Grandparents had to suffer through a performance at every family dinner.
Just to be clear- we are a super talented family. One cousin is a midwife, one is a car salesman and one works with animals. Mowgli is a builder and Chip works with the public. We're all excellent with people, quite charming if I do say so myself, and we're all very hard workers. Performers, however, we are not. I remember once we all sang Earth Song by Michael Jackson. I can only look back and imagine how painful that was. We also thought swapping clothes was the funniest thing ever. There are three girls and three boys so we would swap over and laugh until we cried.
Secondary School started, and my priorities changed.
Actually, they probably didn't change as much as they should have.
I stayed a child maybe I tiny bit longer than most. But I loved baby Charlie and I loved pretending, I wasn't ready to give that up just because it wasn't cool anymore.
I did, however, spend a lot more time dancing in my room than I had before. I had danced since I was 7 so I had probably always danced a bit but by the time 2000 came around I was a fully fledged choreographer.
I remember being in my friend's purple and green room (remember when everyone had a purple and green bedroom? I think that was around 2000), when she performed a dance for me. I shook my head in awe and said to her "Daniel is so lucky to have you." Daniel was her boyfriend, by which I mean they went red and sniggered past each other in the halls at school, slow danced at the disco, and on Valentine's Day Daniel's friend would give me a card and present for her. Then I did a dance for her. She shook her head in awe and said "James is so lucky to have you." You see the pattern.
In my clear out I found an entire box dedicated to Steps. Albums, posters, annuals, sticker books. I also had the video, and would watch, rewind and watch again until I knew every single dance off by heart. Great at school discos and concerts. I was at a concert once when I did the whole dance for Love's Got a Hold on My Heart- verses and all- and the girl next to be could not believe it. I remember thinking smugly, yep, I'm not just here cause it's cool, I am a die hard fan.
We also used to perform as bands in the playground, remember that? Being brunette as a tween was a nightmare for me. Whenever we played Spice Girls I had to be Posh Spice. Steps I had to be Lisa (who I've recently found out was everybody else's favourite?! It was all about Claire for me), and finally, the ultimate kick in the teeth: whenever we played S Club I had to be...Tina. Ouch.
We made our own band as well. Obviously.
I was a member of several, but my favourite was...I can't remember the name of it. I was in it with the twins who lived two doors down from me, and Mowgli, my brother. If anyone remembers the name of our band I would love to know. Our big hit was Smile to the Sun.
Smile to the Sun.
Come on everyone.
Join in the fun.
Yeah! Move along.
We were going to be stars and I was going to marry Calvin from S Club 8. Even though his last name was Goldspink and Frankie clearly fancied him.
Still, Frankie's married with a baby now and as far as I know Calvin's still straight so maybe I still have a shot at being Mrs Goldspink....
All of this thinking about my childhood got me thinking about being an adult, and how much life has changed. I decided to ask a few of my nearest and dearest about the things they miss most about being a child....
1. Fancy Dress for absolutely no reason at all. Going to Asda dressed as Spiderman in the middle of the day, or to the doctors in a bridesmaid dress. Brilliant.
2. Napping at parties. I've been told I'm really boring for this one but honestly, you wish you could too, don't you? Chip pointed out that he'll probably never fall asleep at a party then wake up in his own bed sober again. I miss that. Equally missed is falling asleep in the car and being carried in.
3. Kicking off if you don't get your own way. The last three times I've been out for dinner the restaurant has been out of the salmon. What I really wanted to do was burst into tears, kick the table and ask them why they didn't warn me before I got myself all geared up for it. But I'd probably be arrested now. So I smiled politely, told them I totally understood and would have The Other Fish.
4. Crying when you hurt yourself. Last week a huge square of perspex fell on my head and it really, really hurt. But I was at work and in public and I'm 25. So I had to laugh it off, snap (ever so slightly) at the nearest person as though it was her fault (it wasn't.) and rub it really hard when nobody was looking.
5. Peeing in the garden. I don't think I ever did this, but a few people had it as their first choice. I think this is a boy one....
6. Being naked for most of the day. The theatre that I work in is really hot. I would love for it to be acceptable for me to rip my clothes off the second they become uncomfortable, but it definitely isn't. Even outside work I'd say I'd probably be arrested. Shame, that one.
7. Playing with toys. Just playing. Waking up on a day off and having absolutely nothing to do but play. Teaching a class of beanie babies, performing a show, building a shop, pushing cars around on a mat, building a lego house (I wonder how many of you have Ed Sheeran in your head now?), making a train track....
8. Being totally honest with people. I once had a boyfriend whose tiny cousin stood up during a dinner party and said "Okay I've had enough of you now. You can all go home." The entire family were absolutely horrified but I often think of him now when I've had enough of someone. How nice would it be to tell people what you really think?
9. Riding a bike on the pavement. No fear of being hit by a car, no worries about being a pain to drivers, just fun.
10. Running round in circles in public. Just to entertain yourself. With plane sound effects.
11. Doing handstands, anywhere and everywhere, in a dress, and not even thinking about your underwear being on show.
12. Making things fly. The other day at work a little boy bought a Pumbaa then proceeded to run it around with him in the air, insisting he was a flying warthog. His mum rolled her eyes and muttered, "everything must fly", throwing a knowing look at me. I wish it was acceptable for me to make everything fly. Walking back from Tesco to the theatre on my dinner break would be so much more fun.
I've noticed since I discussed this with people that as adults we do all do childlike things to keep ourselves entertained in day to day life. At work I have to take a clipboard out of a tray of stock, count the stock and record it on the board. I like to pretend I'm a doctor checking on a patient. Nobody that isn't inside my head would ever know, but that's what I do.
Jiminy Cricket puts popping candy in her coffee and lets it hop around her mouth- to all the world around her she's a business woman having her morning caffeine boost.
Mushu likes to sit on the single seat on the bus and pretend she's Cinderella singing In my own little corner in my own little room....
Cowgirl Jessie does really good impressions of various insects and likes to do them and watch people look for the animal.
As I discussed all of these things with Jiminy Cricket the other day she sighed that she wished she could go back and be a child again.
I actually feel the opposite.
I feel so blessed that I was lucky enough to have the childhood that I did- that I had grandparents that watched shows, gave us dinner on a Thursday and let me clip clop around on their lovely kitchen tiles. That I had parents who taught me to love my toys, and provided me with enough independence in a secure environment that I managed to let my imagination go crazy. That I had brothers and cousins who let me boss them around and be in a band with them, and listened to me name the waves.
These memories have actually made me super excited for the future.
My best friend Minnie Mouse has just announced that she is having her own baby. She is about to create the magic of childhood from the other side, and watch someone grow up the way that we did.
Don't panic- this is not me announcing that I am having a baby. I cannot wait for that time, to have the opportunity to create the safe, loving environment filled with fun and imagination that I had.
For now though, I am really, really excited about being an auntie :)