Friday, February 3, 2012

Memory Lane

Over lunch yesterday my sister and I got to talking about our earliest memories. We moved from our house at 1722 Corral Drive (the address will never leave my memory banks!) when I was 7 and she was 6, so we know all the memories from there are our earliest. She has the layout of the upstairs fixed in her memory, as do I, but I also have clear images of most of the downstairs and back yard.

Here's me at almost 2, sharing my big brother's bed. I don't remember sleeping in that room (despite the EXTREMELY AWESOME wallpaper), but have plenty of mental images of the room my sister and I shared. The first wallpaper was green with fluffy bunnies everywhere, and later it was all Old English-type roses, which I'd stare at for hours picking out shapes in the patterns.

I remember standing in the den peering over the edge of my baby brother's bassinet. I was almost 3 when he was born, so I know this has to be among my earliest memories. The bassinet was in the den, which had wood paneling and some truly memorable gold sofas (here they are on Christmas when I was in 3rd grade. I'm the one delighted by my Cinderella doll and my first sewing machine. Check out big brother's Star Wars figures - my sons have those now.) On the other side of the half-wall was the room with the pool table, which had a mirrored ceiling. This made it easier for the four little kids to watch what was happening when the grown-ups played pool. It also left me with some memories of jokes from my parents' friends that I had to sort out when I was much older.

Our dining room, with the blue flocked wallpaper and built-in intercom / radio, I barely remember. We didn't eat in there much. (This is my 4th birthday. Do you love my red robe? I loved my red robe.) The birthday itself I don't remember - the first birthday party I remember was my 6th or so. Try as I might, there are few specific events I remember before starting elementary school. Sis and I both vividly recall traumatic scenes from first grade - I barely made it to the trash can to throw up because I was afraid to ask to go to the restroom, and she got yelled at for littering in the classroom. We remember playground scenes, and walking to and from school, and the time it snowed and we had hot cocoa in front of the fireplace. (Houston: not much of a snow town.)

So I was curious what my boys remembered. They're a lot closer to their earliest memories, after all. D remembers a bit about the townhouse we lived in until he was 2 1/4. He remembers wanting to go up the stairs, but being blocked by the baby gate. Since our house after that had no stairs, I know this is a true early memory. He also has a strong recollection of the dump truck-load of dirt that we had in our driveway when he was 2 1/2 and we'd just moved to our current home. He really, really, really liked that pile of dirt.

There are other early memories he shared with me. His preschool class (and apparently I was prone to giving Lectures About Life even when he was 3.) (But hey, he doesn't judge people based on skin color, so they worked?) He recalls a good bit about a trip to Hawaii with my extended family when he was 3 3/4. He remembers - I love this - coming to the hospital at 4 1/4 to meet his baby brother for the first time, and thinking that he didn't know K would be so cute. He doesn't remember my giant pregnant belly, but does remember being an only child, and knowing that he had a sibling on the way.

K remembers the house I grew up in (not on Corral Drive, the one we lived in after that.) My parents moved from it before he turned three, so the fact that he can describe "the round room with the white chairs and blue carpet and glass table" is clearly a very early memory for him. (He's 1 in this photo with his brother and cousins. How cute are they all, seriously?) K also remembers going on an expedition to buy sheets for his Big Kid Bed. He moved from our bed to his own room when he was about 2 1/2, so the sheets would have been bought around then.

Like his brother, his more detailed early memories are around 4 years old. My parents took everyone to Alaska when he was 4 1/2 and he can tell me a ton about that trip. A year before that the four of us road tripped to Colorado, but that doesn't really stick in his mind. All of the trips to Ireland to see R's side of the family kind of run together for both of them into a giant mash-up of Nana feeding them sausages and rashers, playing football with cousins in the back garden, and getting 99s to eat while walking along the Irish Sea. (In this picture, D is 6 and K is 2. Neither particularly remembers that day, but just look how adorable they are. Doesn't K's curly head just slay you?)

So what does trekking down Memory Lane bring you? Is there some vivid wallpaper in your past, as well, or did you not get to live in the 70s wonderland that I did? And what exactly do you think imprinting on that wallpaper did to the formation of my young brain?


  1. Interesting piece, Mel.
    Just last Sunday, I posted about some of my earliest memories -
    I doubt that your mother would remember Ft. Hood since she was less than a year old.

  2. This is beautiful - some of your best writing (and, no, no favoritism here). FYI - the first picture of you in Mark's room - in the awesome avocado and harvest gold bedding, no less - was from the house you were born to, on Raritan in Spring Branch, from which we moved when you were about 2 1/2, so if you actually remember the toy soldiers it is from that very early age.