I have a pretty vivid memory, I think. It’s definitely a plus if you’re a writer. Funny things said 30 years ago, how it felt to be a little kid, all that good stuff.
But I think I have a really, really good memory. See this picture? I remember it being taken. When my mom had the picture framed a few years ago, I said, “Oh, hey! I remember that!” She said, “No, you don’t. You were just a baby then.” (Quite a fat baby, too, I might add.) I said, no, I remembered. I kept slipping down, which my brother and I thought was extremely hilarious; he kept hauling me back up, as I was just a little butterball and couldn’t do it myself. Also, my sock was falling off.
Mom was amazed. I felt very smug.
Another really early memory is holding my sister for the first time. I was 14 months old then, and my great-aunt Julia handed her to me. My father’s mother said she didn’t think I should hold my newborn sister, but Julia said no, I was doing fine. I felt very awed and proud…kind of tickled that this little baby was for me. I remember my first day of kindergarten, when my name was spelled incorrectly. I remember how Pudge, my high school buddy, won us American History Jeopardy with the answer, “Who is Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill!”
However—you knew this was coming, didn’t you?—there are many things I can’t remember with a gun to the back of my head. McIrish and I have a certain discussion that goes like this:
Me: You’re working tonight? I didn’t know that.
Him: I told you last week.
Me: I have no recollection of this whatsoever.
Him: No, I told you this! I have to cover for Mike because he’s got this thing with a guy in a place.
Me: I’m not saying you didn’t tell me. I just don’t remember.
His voice gets overly patient at this point, as if I’m a not-very-bright child he’s lecturing (Men. So irritating.) The flip side of this is that if he forgets something, he’d rather go to his grave denying it.
Him: You never told me that.
Me: Oh, yes, I did. You were sitting on the stool at the counter, wearing your orange t-shirt and reading This Old House magazine, that article on great faucets of New England, and Willow was eating her supper, and the kids were bickering upstairs over whose turn it was to clean the litterbox, and it was 57 degrees out, and the clock said 6:12.
Him: No. You never told me.
This is the point at which I contemplate divorce and/or homicide (quite happily, too).
My brain is clogged with facts that I remember. “Hey, it’s Jenny’s birthday!” I said recently, referencing the horse of my childhood. I can remember the middle names of all my two dozen cousins, and all of their kids, too. Battle of Hastings? 1066. Third wife of Henry VIII? Jane Seymour, died in childbirth. Rhett’s final line in Gone with the Wind, book version: “My dear, I just don’t give a damn.” Movie version: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Recently, however, I forgot to pick up Princess Daughter at high school. I felt really bad about this. I often set the alarm so I’ll be reminded of just this sort of thing, and I thought I had set it that day, but no. Maternal fail. (I was nine minutes late, for the record. Hopefully, her abandonment issues will resolve.)
But back to the writer’s brain: it’s awfully helpful to be able to tap into those memories of feelings long past, the hurts and the happiness, and be able to channel them into a book. Even if I can’t remember to pick up my kid from school.
What’s your earliest memory? I’d love to hear it!