WHAT I REMEMBER

2 March 2021

  Many people have – or claim to have – strong memories dating from their infancy or very early pre-school life. I don’t say “claim to have” to suggest they are lying or “making things up.” I just remember all the things that I was told in later life by my parents or siblings that may have been their memories, rather than mine. I also know that, as we grow older, it’s hard to put things in a time perspective: was that really when I was barely out of swaddling clothes, or was I in kindergarten?

   Recently, I tried to really force my brain to remember my earliest memories. I thought and thought and thought, and finally came up with --- not much. I tried to explain that away by reminding myself that I’ve lived 80 years, and I have an 80 year old brain that occasionally seems to have some holes in it. That didn’t work, because the few things I do remember from those earliest times are the same few things that I’ve remembered my whole life.

   My earliest memory is of a scary dream that I think I had regularly. In it, a mean fox was chasing me, and I couldn’t seem to get away. (This one has always interested me because I can’t think of any fox story I might have known at that age. Also, all my later memories of foxes are great – among my best-ever remembrances!)

   I remember (this may actually be from a little later, but I remember it as really early) what was a recurring sensation of having one thing happening in real time while my mind was playing the exact same information to me from another time – like the very same thing had happened to me previously. It made me wonder (even as a very little kid!) if I had lived my life before, and this was a replay, or if I had a “twin” in some parallel universe (I wouldn’t have used that term, of course) whose life was a carbon copy of mine. It also made me wonder if God was talking to me some way (although I don’t think “God” was something I knew about at that time). I didn’t get those “messages” later.

   Moving beyond scary dreams and metaphysics, my early mind is pretty much blank. My sister Sandra, who was three years older than me, told me things about my “beginnings:”

   “My earliest memory is of being in a crib in the front bedroom. Roger was also in a crib. Dad was very sick. Everybody but you had scarlet fever and were quarantined. Dr. Larson would come by every morning to check on us and he would give me a quarter. You were a small baby. I remember Grandma Millward was there and she kept you out in the other part of the house. I could hear you crying. I don’t think Mom could nurse you, because she had the fever, too. I know I wasn’t very old, but because our routine had changed so much, it left this strong memory.”

   But that was her memory, not mine.

*  *  *

   Recently, I bragged to a friend that I could still remember and sing the lyrics of every song I heard before I was a teenager. There were a lot of them. Actually, it wasn’t a “brag,” because it is pretty much true. It makes me wonder why my brain would keep that kind of stuff on file when my early life is such a blank – and why, as I get older and really do begin to misplace memories, it’s the names and dates that slip away, but the songs remain. “’Tis a puzzlement.”

  “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…”


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