I have little recollection of my first ten years, and asked Mum to stir up some memories.
“Which was my favourite bedtime story?” I tempted, intrigued as to which character might have shaped my perception of the world. “Miffy,” she replied, quick as a flash.
Not one memory surfaced.
This is the opening of my piece in an exhibition at The Story Museum exploring favourite childhood characters from an adult viewpoint. A project of this nature inevitably takes a peek at how our mature self may have been influenced by the fictional souls we went to bed with as nippers.
There are two parts to the exhibition, wonderfully initiated by the writing association 26. The first is live at the museum and involves portraits of our best children’s authors, including Michael Morpurgo, Holly Smale and Benjamin Zephaniah, dressed as their most memorable childhood character. Each was paired with a writer, of which I was thrilled to be one, and we responded with a written piece of poetry or prose that sits alongside their portrait.
The second part of the project involves each of 26’s paired writers reflecting on the protagonist that most influenced them from their early reading. I wrote about Miffy, as well as make a life size bunny rabbit, I’ll save that story for another time. These stories will be live on the Story Museum’s digital gallery at the end of April.
I loved being given the opportunity to drill deep into Miffy’s values, and the type of life she led. I took time to consider whether the woman I’ve become may have been fashioned by the stories my parents shared with me as a child.
This was my conclusion:
… while we may write our life’s story in those early years… it will only ever be a draft. Every day we have in ourselves the power to rewrite it.
I strongly believe that the characters we spend a lot of time with when we’re growing up, and as grown ups, have a huge impact on our lives. It’s called peer pressure. Let’s be honest, characters that are fictional and individuals we’ve never met can still be very present in our lives. We can look up to them, mimic their habits, and try to think in their way. Essentially we aspire to be like them.
So, if your favourite childhood character is the Gruffalo, Robinson Crusoe or Peter Pan, try zooming in on your life, and playing spot the difference. Then take a step back and think about whether your life script is the best it can be.