Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What is your earliest memory

I read an article recently exploring when a child actually starts to form their first actual memories. The article delved into what you actually remember, and what you may recall based on the retelling of stories. Sure, you may remember doing XYZ during your childhood, but do you actually remember it, or is it something that you recall simply because your parents have told that story 1,000 times? Some people reported remembering things from before their first birthday – much earlier I can fathom remembering stuff.

My triplets are almost one-year old now, so I started thinking about when and what they would eventually remember.  With that in mind I started thinking about my earliest confirmable memory that wasn’t the result of parental retelling.

Placing those memories can be a real problem. Life and time have a way of blurring everything together. I have trouble remembering whether I did something last month or last week, or the month before, let alone something I haven’t thought about for 30 years ago. Luckily, I have a handy cut off: we moved between my third and fourth grade year.

And my earliest memories come from before that time.

I recall falling face-first into a mud puddle at a fair. I recall falling from what seemed like the 10 row of a set of bleachers (I still sport the scar) but what was probably like 2 rows. I remember a cub scout trip to a pretzel factory. But all of those are repeatable stories; more likely the result of retellings than memory.

What I’m almost sure is my first real memory not buffered by any retelling is more of two hazy images than actual events: I distinctly recall the bright blue carpeting of my first real bedroom, and a little room that sat off of my parents’ bedroom that we referred to as the “cold room.” We called it that because it was inevitably colder than the rest of the house during the winter. We are a clever bunch, I know.

We left that house after my third-grade year, so we are talking 8-year-old and or younger. I’m sure the actual carpet faded from my memory long ago; instead, in my head the carpet is deep blue. The kind you see in advertising for island getaways.

Another memory that sticks with me is of two friends I had at roughly the same time. I also recall the approximate direction of their homes from ours. I forget both their names (Adam?), but I remember their homes – one a nice house, the second in what I realized much later was an apartment in a big, brown clapboard apartment complex. I should note that we only really went one direction when we left that home, so maybe that made it easier to remember in what direction my friends lived. It’s also possible that I would lead you in an entirely different direction than you should actually be going.

I remember going with the friend who lived in the apartment and picking gold specks out the macadam of the basketball court and thinking we had real gold. I remember going into the field behind my other friends house and rooting around for rocks with amethysts in them. I remember keeping the rocks in a big brown paper bag and wanting to take the bag of rocks with me. I remember that we left them at the old home.

I remember that the friend who lived in the house thought it was hysterically funny that the town we were moving to was called Pottstown. Something about “do they make pots there?” or some such. That I’m sure is real memory. First, because I’m not sure anyone else knows about it; second, because I remember being hurt that he was making fun of what was to me a terrifying event: moving away.

So my three are another 5 or 6 years from truly forming memories; either that or they are already begining to form solid images in their minds of the carpet in their room.
Actual carpet

I’ll post again if I can think back any further, but that is pretty much it – my first memory dates from six or seven years old.  What is your earliest memory?  Does it date back more than 30 years?  Does it go back further than when you were 7?

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