Childhood memories are fickle things. Sure, we remember the big things like that time Timmy Shubert from down the street sneezed onto Suzie Jones’ 6th birthday cake or how Mrs. Williams would stroll past every afternoon at 4:45 with her chihuahua – and maybe even a couple random 3 second memories in between. But sometimes something triggers our senses and waves of memories crash into us.
Good memories. Bad memories.
Memories that we forgot.
How did we forget about that?
In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the nameless main character returns to his childhood hometown for a funeral. It had been decades since he had been home. A whole life complete with the works: work, marriage, children, divorce. Afterwards, he mindlessly drives to the old house and the memories that he forgot come flooding back.
He had a dad, a mum, and a sister. He never forgot about them. In their house, he had his own little space complete with his own sink. He had his books and his cat. He had it good. Then he remembers that the family started to rent out his space to other people and he had to share a room with his sister. One of the tenants, an opal miner, ran over his kitty. Of course, the opal miner replaced the cat with a tomcat that was “the same thing.” But it wasn’t his kitty. Then the family car was gone. The police found it down the lane. The opal miner’s body was in it.
And further down the lane – at the end of it – was Lettie Hempstock. She came from across the ocean behind the Hempstock farmhouse. The ocean doesn’t end, but it also fits into a bucket.
The narrator, in present day, sits at the duckpond behind the farmhouse and recalls horrific experiences and the moments of quiet safety in between trying to remember if he had remembered these things before. Are these bad memories? Are these good memories?
Should we even want to remember?