Memories, “like the corners of my mind.” Or in my case more like the dusty things that get stuffed under the bed and you find years later and wonder what they heck it are. Our exercise for today, lucky number 13, is “your earliest memory.” That goes along long way back. It makes me wish I done this exercise when I was younger when I may have remembered more.
The funny thing about memories though is that the further away from the actual events we get, the harder it is to tell if the memory is fact or just something we made up. Or something in between. This doesn’t make it any less true, but it does mean it doesn’t necessarily match any one else’s recollection of the event. In fact sometimes I have memories of dreams that on later inspection I can’t ascertain if they ever really happened at all.
What I would assume is my earliest memory is of walking down a short stretch of road with a teddy bear in my arm while pulling a wagon. We were living in the West Ashley area of Charleston, where I have spent most of my life, but we were moving from a house my parents were renting to one they bought. A move of just a few street numbers – only leapfrogging one house. I must have been about 4 or 5 at the time. Now, did this actually take place? Do I only remember it because my parents told me about it, and I combined it with visions of that street that I had later? No idea. Doesn’t matter. It happened in some way and is firmly anchored in my head. It exists.
The next memory is one that again is surrounded by more story than actuality. My father was working on his dissertation at LSU in Baton Rouge, where I had been born probably six or seven years before. My mother and sister and I had returned there to visit him on one of the times when he had to do work on campus. I don’t think it was his graduation to doctoral status yet. But on that trip we went from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and saw a number of things that have stuck with me since. The first was the streetcars. My father and I rode them from one end of the Saint Charles line to the other and back again. I distinctly remember reaching the end of the line and flipping the seat backs around and the big Perley-Thomas streetcar reversing directions.
On the same trip I can remember going to the small zoo at Audubon Park and riding a small amusement park style train around. Yes, I was enamored of trains at a young age, and my father did his best to both feed that joy as well as increase it. I can also remember going to the edge of the Mississippi River in downtown New Orleans but not going across because the ferry had just left – so we got ice cream instead. And finally we went to a natural history museum where you could stand on a pressure sensitive metal plate in front of a display of snakes and it would make a rattlesnake sound. Strange the odd snippets we remember. Or have inserted in our memories.
After that time I begin to see lots more memories coming into mind. I doubt it was really that things were more memorable, I just think my mind developed a bit more and started holding on to things. I hope it continues to do so.