The first memories you have will define your life. Or, at least, that’s how I’ve heard it said before. I think this was from people who would like everyone to buy their worldview, available now in hardcover and paperback. If their opinions were correct, then my life will obviously be that of a care-free four year old forever.
At least I won’t be in diapers.
I remember it surprisingly well, my first memory. I was running up and down the length of my grandfather’s house. At one end, the kitchen. There was a low-slung lamp with a long, thick, beige cloth chord running from the lamp, along the ceiling, and into the wall. There was an even lower wooden table beneath, with benches to match. My father and grandfather were playing rummy; I know it was rummy, because that’s what my grandfather played with other people at that time. He was always playing that, or solitaire.
Running to the far end of the house, there were two bedrooms. One was dark brown with two windows, on the right end of the hall. This room contained an old green rocking chair and a foam chair, which flipped into a bed. There was a rectangular box on a wheeled stand, made of faux wood and wires running out the back and into the wall. The front was half a fishbowl, and was what I would watch my Saturday morning cartoons on – Reading Rainbow, if it was a weekday. The other room was just as dark, but brighter from window treatments and the sun bearing down on that half of the house. There was a nurse going around a bed, and in the bed, my grandmother Nani. I don’t recall the funeral, but I’ve discussed this with my father nearly a decade ago, and he feels that was the day she died.
I have another memory that may have preceded that one. I say “may”, as I remember the whole event in a third person perspective. Almost as if when I was poking at my brain years ago, I shuffled outside of normal brain-time and saw everything objectively. I would say it was from a camera, but the technology was not there in 1985 to so crisply record the event. I was sitting on Nani’s lap in their backyard. There was a tall, aluminum shed, white as they day it was bought, with an old wooden bench leaning against it. The benches were still red then; once the paint faded, my Grandfather didn’t paint it again. She was on the bench, holding me, and the sun was bright.
The sun in upstate New York is different. It’s such a harsh white, it feels like fluorescent lights. The white snow is made even whiter. The yellow snow is nearly iridescent. I like the sunlight in Florida – gives everything this healthy, warm, yellow glow. Pennsylvania’s okay, but I feel the sunlight still leaves some color saturation to be desired.
The yard had four or five other children playing it, as the sun beat down on my head. I was young – so young. Maybe two or three. The sunlight was blasting my white scalp into a whole new light spectrum. Nani slid her white fishing cap off, popped it on my head, and cinched up the cord around my chin. I had that hat for years. This memory came to life when I was about sixteen, and trying to remember whatever happened to that hat.
Needless to say, it was lost. The side effects of moving a lot as a kid, is that not everything moved with us. Now in a normal, rational move from one home to another, all of your effects move with you. As we were usually moving with little notice, boxes and bags would get carried to a storage facility, or just left behind. Several of those storage centers were never paid off, and I’m pretty sure were featured on Storage Wars since then.
My original notes from grade school were in one of those, regarding the use of “gravity spheres” as a gravitational lens. Because when you spend a summer locked in your room with Stephen Hawking books, this happens. This theory was later graduated to the manipulation of the spheres as a singularity. Either way, lucky buggers to whoever found those books.
After a move of similar circumstances, our house was broken into. I realize now that they were after nothing of mine (they were actually after one, specific stash of …items…), but I was still deathly afraid that someone had taken my new notebooks with doodles and theories.
In all my life, I’ve never found a memory to be a true measure of what a person is. Memories, like genetics, can only provide a rough outline on someone’s life. While occurring, these moments never take into account future development or environment. The moments don’t take stock on personal morale or accountability.
When something happens in our life, we have a chance to make it a proactive or a reactive moment. Have you ever thought someone was making you angry? Or that they were making you want to smack them upside the head? We think, “So and so made me hit them,” or, “Such and such made me angry,” but don’t think that there is no other person in your head telling you to get angry. No one is holding your strings for that marionette punch. The same could be said for taking adequate stock of words like “always” and “never”. Saying I never take out the trash, but I just did eighteen months ago, would make you a liar – not a good way to win an argument. Now, “rarely” or “barely ever?” – fine; I’ll let it slide.
Think about the moments that lead you here. Have you been reactive to them, or proactive? Have you been fully accountable for your own actions? Through the day, think of a situation where you would use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’, and think how it sounds before saying it.
Don’t think about how your life was supposed to be based on a single occurrence years ago. That’s a discredit to the amazing person you can choose to be now.