Monday, 1 August 2016
This post was inspired by this recent BBC article; it talks about early memories and why we don't recall anything from before two-and-a-half years old, at the very earliest, despite there being some major things going on during those years, like being born, for instance.
It made me think about my earliest memories. Each one is a visual memory, lasting only seconds, sometimes just the equivalent of a photograph, one single frame - and the glimpses into my past are the same every time I think about them. Either I have no imagination or my life was quite dull! I've been told that our memories are constantly changing as we think and re-think about them, but that is not the impression I have of my own memories. They seem to be constant, and try as I will, I cannot add to the details.
The following memories are all from before I was five; I know this for sure because they all took place in the house we moved away from when I was five years old.
... having relatives from the U.S. visit on a summer day when my older brother and I were recovering from the mumps. We were well enough to be up and around and playing hide and seek by the time our company came, although my neck still felt sore. I hope we didn't pass on our ick to our cousin. Another brief memory from that day was that we had more people than chairs at meal time, so we used the piano bench as a seat for several people along one side of the table. For some reason, that made a big impression on me.
... the aftermath of a fall from a rocking chair, during which I bit my tongue deeply. I don't remember the fall, the blood, or the pain but if you want the details my mother can still provide a full description. No stitches; the mouth heals quickly. The only memory I actually have is from the next morning, when my father carried me downstairs and my mother gave me a glass of orange juice - which stung my tongue and I couldn't drink more than a mouthful. I had a horizontal scar on my tongue for many years; there is still a small line there. Unless that's just a normal line - I don't know - is it normal to have an indentation going from side to side on the surface of your tongue? Why are we not taught these critical things in health class? All I know is that it has never stopped me from talking - which some people think is a pity.
... crying as the television set which had been lent to us for awhile was taken away again. I hid my head under one of the couch cushions to have a proper boo-hoo. We didn't have a TV again until I was about 10 years old. In retrospect, I'm glad of that. I had to use my imagination a lot, and I read and read and read, which is a good basis for later learning.
... seeing my brother cry when he came home from school to the news that our elderly, deaf dog had been struck and killed by a car while trotting beside the road ... strangely, I did not feel any sadness myself that I can recall. But I remember my brother retreating behind a large chair to cry and getting mad at me for following him and not leaving him alone. I don't think empathy had kicked in yet.
... playing the piano, a simple tune - probably Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I had a little music book with numbered notes. My daytime babysitter was very patient with me, I'm told. Just imagine if you had to listen to the same tune over and over and over. You'd have to be a saint.
... visiting the house we would move into when I was five. The family living there had a disabled adult daughter, and she was playing with some sort of large machine. I remember thinking that when we moved in I'd be able to see it closer and figure out what it was - that was before I realized that moving means taking all your stuff with you, and that goes for the people who are vacating the house, too!
... going to school with my mother for a day. She taught in a one-room school with grades from primary to senior. I can remember sitting and doing something to keep busy (colouring? hah - probably not, I never liked to colour ... looking at books? more likely) while she taught. At lunch time the older girls took me outside to have a picnic; they were superbly kind and mothering and I wanted for nothing. It was a beautiful warm-but-not-hot day, so it was probably in June, close to the end of the school year.
How about you? What are your earliest memories? How old do you estimate you were? Anything else to add? I'd love to hear about it. It's an endlessly fascinating topic for me.