Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sorting through old brain files

The Sunday columnist at my newspaper wrote about earliest memories this week. She asked people she cared about what event or moment most stands out from their childhood.

Not surprisingly -- well, to me, anyway -- many of them were negative. I mean, it's easy to remember traumatic events that shake you to your core, regardless of age. Others were very positive, just a cozy memory of family and home.

It got me thinking about my earliest memory, and I have so many that I can't specifically pinpoint one. For me, the few years that I can remember my parents being married and living in the house they built together is as far back as it goes for me. And maybe its because I'm very nostalgic by nature, but I've held onto all of those memories with all of my might.

There's the time I refused to eat scallops at the dinner table, because, well, they looked and tasted like nasty gross brains, and my mom yelled at me and told me to go to my room.

Then there's the time my brother left his dump truck Matchbox car on the stairs and I stepped on its sharp teeth the next morning and thought I was going to die.

I remember laying on my stomach in the sunshine on the blue carpet in the family room under the bay window and looking at my dad's Pink Floyd record covers.

I remember standing in the kitchen with my dad late at night and watching a mommy possum with her babies on our back deck.

I can still picture all of the deer that would eat the apples in our back yard and I imagined that I lived in Barbie's castle.

I remember playing "bank" with my brother through the slots in between the steps because it was the '70s and the staircase didn't have a back -- that would've been conformative, man.

I remember my dad giving my brother and me a bath after dinner while he drank a beer. And he'd always give me a sip when I asked for one.

I remember when my parents put an addition on the back of our house and they allowed us to draw on the wood subfloor before the carpet went down.

When the hot tub went in, I thought we were the richest people alive. On Saturday mornings, my brother and I would watch "PeeWee's Playhouse" from the hot tub and drink orange juice out of plastic champagne cups.

I remember playing "Grease" on the rusted cars in one of our overgrown gardens. I would stand on top of the cars and point my finger and shake my hips like the high school guys in my mom's play did during the rehearsals I got to watch.

There were so many memories that I had a hard time expressing everything to Jerry last night as we were laying in the dark, trying to fall asleep.

I had asked his earliest memory, but he needed a minute to think about it. In the meantime, I rattled off all of mine.

"Okay, I got it," he said.

"Let's hear it."

"I don't remember what I was doing or why I was there, but I remember standing in the back yard. I was wearing gay little white short shorts and a blue muscle shirt with white stripes. I was on the grass next to the walkway, kind of near where the turtle sandbox is now. I think I was 4."

"Annnnd ... ?"

"And that's it."



I started laughing so hard that I could barely breathe. The fact that Jerry's memory has no emotion or event attached to it is just so ... so Jerry.

"So you basically remember an outfit."

"And that it was summer."


What's your earliest memory?


Sarah said...

Wanting to wear black high tops with my little peach birthday dress at my birthday party in preschool. My dad bought me the shoes that day and back then my dad was the coolest guy on earth (he still is pretty much). Its not really my earliest memory, but its the most clear early memory I have! I have always loved to wear odd shoes to stand out, and apparently I started early.

Leslie said...

I remember snippets of living in an apartment with my parents before they got divorced. I don't remember the previous house we had been in but I remember this apartment. I was about 3 years old.

I remember sharing a room with my brother. We had bunk beds. Finally getting the whole potty training thing. Pat our neighbor from upstairs, I still see her every once in a while. Liberty our babysitter lived in the building next to ours. There were train tracks behind our apartment. We were on the ground floor. My dad was still in the Army at the time.

We moved again around the time I turned 4 and shortly after my parents got divorced. There was never any fighting. They get along. They just weren't in love.

Tiffany said...

I have so many great early memories with my dad, that mean SO much to me now that he's passed away. I remember easter egg hunts, and camping trips, him trying to make me eat my veggies with no luck, and watching him build our club house. Memories are the only things that live on forever, and it's so important to me now that I have them!

aj said...

For real?

My earliest memory...

There are so many. Sometimes I get confused which ones come first until I put the timelines together and figure out the order of events. Can I share a few?

I remember someone lifting me up to a large window and looking in to see my new baby sister.

I remember my mom rocking me to sleep and singing "Hush little baby...".

I remember the night my mom left him. There was sneaking around in the dark, whispers. She laid me in the back seat of the car with my little sister and I pretended to be asleep. He caught us, but my mom struggled free, and we made it.

I remember laying on some great shag carpet and waving goodbye to my uncle as he gave us his usual farewell: "I gotta skeedaddle!"

Putting those pieces together somehow, those memories all happened before I was four. So I know kids can remember things in their lives.

I meet a lot of people who tell me they don't remember a lot of their childhood, or that they don't remember much before they were about seven or eight. Then, I wonder why it is I remember so much.

Still baffling.

Thanks for listening.

Mandakay1184 said...

probably the time my sister and i were dancing around and singing to the 'we are siamese' song from the 'lady and the tramp' book on tape while my mom was giving the new sister a bath...i remember looking at her lying on the bed in her towel and wondering why she was so orange and that her belly button looked was still the little blue-black knob that hadn't fallen off yet

any time before the age of 7 is pretty hazy...apparently I was addicted to dimetapp...God's gift to children everywhere...while nyquil is God's gift to adults

Marina said...

Being in preschool, listening to one of the teachers talk, and noticing that she said "like" a lot, and being a bit confused by it.
"And she was like...and he was like....And I'm like..."
Meanwhile, *I* was like..."what does that even MEAN?? I don't get it!"

Such was the beginning of my life in America.

Kimberly said...

Like you I have a ton. I am on my way out so I will have to make a list and send them to you later. :)

Mike said...

wanting to go to "fun city". kind of like chuckie cheeses. just much much bigger. and trying to do gymnastics and handstands on my futon in hopes of "getting in shape" for the next day.

Emilee said...

i remember laying down in my parents room, watching 101 dalmations with my dad. i told him that i thought i was going to throw up, so he came and knelt down next to me. and as soon as i said, "thanks papa" i threw up all over him.

i remember drawing pictures for my mom's hospital room when she had my youngest brother. and i was so proud that i had such pretty pictures in a hospital. then the nurse tried to take them down...that didn't go over well. =]

i remember trying to catch garter snakes in the garden with my dad.

Kristen said...

my cousins and i playing fraggle rock at my grandma's house or going to gulf shores when i was about 4ish.

Sarah said...

My earliest earliest memory, EVER, was when my parents were getting married. I was two, they were 23. It was at a restaurant, and I remember little things like my pink dress, the piano player, the ocean scene backdrop in the restaurant. I remember running around, and asking my dad to peel me an orange, but he wouldn't because he said something about not wanting to get his suit dirty. I only remember tiny parts, but it's kinda funny when I think about it now. =]

Jenni said...

I have a few. I remember climbing out of my crib every night for a week until my parents got me a "big girl bed."

I remember a baby swing that hung from our clothesline pole. My mom would put me in it and push it while she hung up laundry and sang.

I remember playing Barbies with my dad in our hallway when I was about 3 as sunlight filtered through the blinds and landed across the dollhouse.

I remember playing outside with my sister every day, rain or shine, hot or cold as soon as we could until it was dark.

*sighs* Now I wish I were little again.

Sarah said...

I don't know how old I was, but my earliest memory is of falling into a toilet. My parents hadn't put the toilet seat down, and when I sat, I slipped into the toilet and couldn't get myself out. I vividly remember my parents standing at the door laughing at me and not helping. It made me feel really sad at the time, but now I just think it's hilarious.

Melinda Hale said...

My earliest memory was being in my crib (believe it or not - I was REALLY little) and talking with my mother through my baby monitor. Now, of course a baby monitor only works one way, but I was convinced that I was having a whole conversation....

I still have a vivid imagination, and sometimes I am not well-connected with reality, so apparently those traits started early!

Amy said...

I remember the first time I went to Denmark. I was around about 5. My sister and I were sharing a room, we got there and found bags of sweets on each of our beds, I went in the garden to eat mine and a frog jumped by, I was so sure it had gone in my sweets that I cried and my grandad spent an hour convincing me to eat them.

Later that night my grandad woke me up and walked me into the sitting room to look out of the window to the garden where a deer was eating, I was so shocked, I'd never seen anything like that seeing as I live in london I'll never forget it... it was also my only really holiday with my grandad :)

Pauline said...

=) My dad used to make up stories for me almost every night. I don't remember when exactly he started doing that, but I was probably 3 or 4. Johnny, Susie The Professor and Scruffy the dog. Sound effects, hand motions and all.

He'd also play the guitar for me too. I loved 'Hark The Harold Angel Sings' and ' Song for Julia'. He always seemed to know that. He'd tuck me in, turn the lights out, and play until I fell asleep.

I remember sitting in the cab of his big red Ford truck with the windows down, and the wind rushing in my ears. Listening to Jackson Browne or some other 70's classic rock.

And what I really, really loved to do on summer evenings, was catch lighting bugs. I'd run around the yard trying to catch them in my hands. I'd bring them all back to my dad and show them off. Then we'd listen to the peepers until I had to go to bed.

Thanks for listening to me ramble on :]

Randall said...

My earliest was at a place called Homasassa Springs here in Florida. I was in the petting zoo with my parents sitting in a stroller and a goat started to nibble my toes. I was almost one. My mom can't believe I remember something from that young but I do!

JazzSaxKitten said...

I was 3 or 4. I was playing with my grandma's cat's toys on the floor... throwing the little jingle balls up the stairs and watching them roll back down. Then for some reason someone said the word floor, or i looked at the floor and knew it was "floor". Then I decided to ask my great-grandmother, "How do you spell floor?"


Something clicked. I just remember being satisfied that I knew something new.

Julie said...

My earliest two memories are from when I was three. I remember standing in the garage of the house my parents were going to buy (which they still live in 28 years later), talking with the realtor about which bedroom I wanted. Then my next memory is from the drive to that house when we moved there. My dad must've been in the moving truck because it was me and my mom and our two cats, Cindy and Heidi.

chelsea said...

I can't really remember much! Except sharing a room with my older sister when I was 5 and she was in high school; and how she had to get up around 5 am, while it was still dark. I thought it was so weird it was dark for the morning!

Ps, thanks for the advice! I'm the sports editor, and our paper is pretty small and we only have space for the main team stories, so I have to depend on them. Our next meeting should be..interesting!

mercurial scribe said...

i remember being in my dad's arms on this street that i just instinctively know is my aunt's somewhere outside San Francisco. i remember a blue truck and a green 70s looking car, the way the street rolled upward like it was going into the sky, the strength of my dad's arms, hearing my mom's voice.

Supposedly i was 2 or 3. It's just a flash, but that's my first.

Janice said...

I remember being very young, three or so, and we lived in a house I only remember because we've driven by so many times just to see it. All I remember is climbing up the stairs, but not walking, using my hands too because I was a kid and what kid walks up the stairs upright? I remember going really fast wanting to get to my room for a Barbie... and that's it. :)

Petra (aka oneka) said...

I'm one of those who can't remember much of their childhood. Heck, I can't even remember what went on in high school or college!

My earliest memories have to do with summer time before my sister was born, riding my bike, going for swims and running through the woods. I must have been 4-ish at the time. Like Jerry, I really don't remember a specific event or anything. I just remember the feeling of the moment, sort of.

Anonymous said...

You forgot the "o" in opossum. said...

Yeah, I remembered playing "Bank" with my brother through a small chair!

And my earliest memory was the time when I was around 2 or 3 when my aunt brough me to the airport for a photo shoot. And i remembered it because I was awed by a three story high water structure.

Oh, its no longer there at the Airport now.

Lisa said...


Some of my earliest memories were when my parents were still together too. But on of my other earliest memories was when we all met at Darien Lake. Remember riding in the old fashion cars? I was so shy, I was so young. But I do remember how excited I was to have an older sister! We talked about our earliest memories at dinner tonight, it sure was fun. : )

the remeniscent plainsman said...

I, too, remember some from my last crib days, would rock the crib to get it to eventually roll it to the door, open it a bit more and peek at my dad shaving. Of course, my parents knew what all the noise was about and would wait and watch until I got to the door. Just after those days, I got a real bed! Also remember being in the playpen on the big front porch, looking up over the surrounding bushes at a very blue sky and of all things, the light pole and trees across the street. I had some sort of bright red toy or cup, too. That might be my earliest, then from 3 and 4 on, I seem to remember a lot of things.

Jennifer said...

Its tough to think back and try and figure out what you remember from when you were little. I'm a lot like Jerry in that I remember small things like the color of the carpet and that it was sunny, but nothing else.

It was nice to read all the comments on here though and see what others remembered. For some reason it gives you that warm fuzzy "home" feeling. It makes me want to be sure that my daughters have sweet first memories because my oldest is at that age (3) where she will be starting to hold onto them.

Ray said...

Interesting memories. I have a funny one but I don't think it's proper to share it here.

-Hmmm, I have one where I remember it was really late and my parents & me where going on this trip. I remember my father getting out of the car to go the store. Me laying down I guess next to my mother in the front seat of the car laying down. And I remember my father coming back with a banana for me and probably cigs for him since he's a big smoker. I found it funny though that he got me a banana. I think the trip was to Upstate who knows.

-I also remember standing on the edge of the bathtub to look out the window of our old apartment, to see this old farm house. BUT funny thing is it wasn't a farmhouse, it was just a school that's still around! I have no idea why I remembered it that way.

-I remember looking out of the window again of my grandmother's house to see my cousins going to school. And I remember feeling sad that I couldn't go with them. I was too young and my grandmother was babysitting me I assume. Funny now because I hate school.

-In another window story I remember seeing a scary man peering through our bathroom window. But it couldn't have been possible because there was no place where for him to stand, we were high up. I have no idea what that memory really is. Maybe my imagination playing with me.

Take care, Kelly.