NPR did a piece on memories that resonated with me. It reports that some of earliest childhood memories are basically wiped out, and considers why that may be. What came to me immediately is that it is because we have no framework at that age in which to “set” our memories. Everything is new, and mostly stunning. (I do remember someone saying if you want to imagine what it’s like to be a young child, just imagine that you are visiting a new country everyday, with all new sights, smells and sounds, and some days it’s several countries in a day).
In other words, memories are stronger that have some association or connection, be it with words, emotions, or the general framework in which we view the world and ourselves in relation to it. Memories set better once a person has a world view; and very young children have no such world view as yet – bless those little free darlin’s!. Theirs is a world primarily of experience, and only secondarily of the organizing, compartmentalizing, and identifying patterns in and of the experiences they have. I think it’s essentially the same reason many people have a hard time remembering their dreams: the dream images/subject are not set in a familiar framework from which we can recall them. They tend to be random, abstract, separated from our everyday framework, yet still connected enough to “reality” that usually they are remembered in bits and pieces. This may be the same reason that unusual experiences are easily remembered when those experiences occur when we are adults: we remember them as striking for what they are not – they are not are usual, everyday experiences (or part of our regular framework).
All this reminded me of one of my early, among the earliest, childhood memories. I am standing outside our house, at the side of the house on Newfield Drive (yes, literally, isn’t that so literal?), staring eye to … I don’t know what – not quite eye – with this ball of pink, tightly wound, … I have a hard time describing it, realizing only now that it’s a visual I have never tried to put into words … I have looked for this flower years later and believe it to be a peony. Back then, there were a bunch of them at the side of the house. It was a flower bush, but I watched only one little about-to-burst bulb. It was swarming with ants, little busy ants. They were light orange, each going every which way in no clear pattern, no matter how much I tried to find one. It was fascinating. I like the feeling even now just to think about it. I visited that flower a lot. I know if I were running a full circle around the house, I could stop, and stare at it. It was right outside my parents’ bedroom. I felt like it was mine. Not mine, as in my owning it but mine as in — there for me to see.
I have a vague recollection of flower petals replacing that tightly wound bud where the ants crawled, but it’s vague at best. Maybe I lost interest then. Mostly, I remember those ants crawling. So busy. Going nowhere in particular. I liked that a lot.
I also remember inadvertently being locked out in winter and having to use the bushes and my bottom being really cold.
I think I know why I like summer better.
QUESTION: do you remember the first time you came in contact with the earth, recognizing it as separate from you, and perhaps part of something else? What is your earliest memory?
Do you remember the first time you saw and/or recognized a plant or other flower? Did you garden as a kid? Did your parents? Do you remember it? Did you like it or was it a chore?
Do you know any particular flower that attracts ants like that? Are they peonies?
Go ahead … gimme the dirt.