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Monday, April 30, 2012

Childhood

I've been reading Annie Dillard's An American Childhood and thinking about my own childhood, remembering it, trying to put a name to it. I asked myself: What did it mean to be a child? I decided that the one thing it means for sure is that I (the child) have no memory. When I was born, I had nothing in my brain (memories) to fall back on, to tell me what was going on, and that was the case for quite a few years.

As an adult, I can remember my very first memory. I recall it vividly. I was walking down the street, holding my father's hand. I had a diaper full of doo-doo. On the top of the fence pole, there was a large Lincoln Head Penny.

I was potty trained when I was two years old, so I had to have been two years old or less. I walked at around ten months of age, so they tell me, so I might have been one or two years old. Was that my first moment of self-realization? Why did that memory stay with me for the rest of my life, and nothing much else until I was older? What was so memorable about it? I can't say. It just is. Just like a child, I just was.

Being a child means learning how to remember--to remember without remembering. We forget almost everything we remember. Yet, we remember it all. It is within us. We just don't remember it. So being a child is all about memory.

13 comments:

Clarissa Draper said...

I don't have childhood memories. I think the earliest is about twelve. Perhaps my life was super boring. Sometimes I think I have a memory but I'm not sure I'm not just making it up based on what I've seen in a photo album.

Jolene Perry said...

Well said.

And I'm always amazed at the things my brain holds on to...

Tanya Reimer said...

Your post made me think of something a wise Memory Eraser once said in my fiction, "If you don't remember something, does it mean it never happened?"

Made me stop and think that this must be my thoughts a lot, because in my newest book, my MC lives by the motto that every breath feeds the next, even those we forget.

What am I forgetting that made me who I am today? Why do we remember a moment over others yet in the moment, I'm very self aware? Is it an emotion, a thought, a thing we liked? Do we tell our brain to remember this moment so we can come back to this point to reflect?

I loved your first memory. That is exactly what a first memory should be like, a point in time to orient ourselves and see just who we were and what mattered in that moment.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I don't have any childhood (meaning 2 years or whereabouts memories). You were quite a smart child, walking at 10 months.

Kamille Elahi said...

You were walking at 10 months? it took me a year and a half to even stand up without falling over!

I'm 19 and my earliest childhood memory is probably waking up and crying because I had to go to school. I think I was 5. My memory isn't too good lol!

Jarmara Falconer said...

I have good memories of my childhood, though the rest of my family seem only to have bad memories of their childhood and tell me that I must have been living a different life from them.

E.D. said...

That is an interesting observation. I think it is all in there, hiding in some corner of our mind, waiting to break out. Childhood seems so remote, like a different world. Hard to believe it happened and how good it was.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Richard .. my first memories were at 3 - my brother arrived, and my best friend and I (where I'd been staying while he was born at home) came across to visit - he was ugly .. so I burst into tears!! Like any baby really!!! 'cept to adults!

I remember certain 'milestones' ie times .. but not great reams of it.

Cheers Hilary

Talli Roland said...

I've got a lot of really lovely childhood memories. I count myself lucky to have had a fab time growing up!

Emily R. King said...

I don't remember much either, except for being happy. I was a blessed little girl.

Arlee Bird said...

I'd call that pretty good memory. I don't know when my first memories come from, but I don't think they go back that far. Early childhood is a very odd time when the concept of time is not very clear to us and we're mostly trying to figure out what the heck is going on around us. Childhood being all about memory is a reasonable assessment I think.


Lee
A Faraway View
An A to Z Co-host blog

Wendy G. Ewurum: Blog Author said...

HI Richard, what a wonderful post and I have missed you. I have quite a few memories all around age 4. I don't know when itis that I walked but all my kids walked around 10 - 12 months too. They seem to hate crawling about. Your parents were very smart to get you off the diaper by two, I also never understand when parents allow a grown child of 2 plus to drag around diapers.

Elliot Grace said...

...they come back in flashes, those fragments of childhood plunder. Perhaps its better that we don't remember everything, the trouble we found ourselves in, the lessons learned.

Fun post, Richard ;)

El