Thursday, May 31, 2018

Counseling: What is your earliest memory?

I don't know why it came up but recently I was talking with Skylar about my earliest life memories and he basically called me a liar. I'm angry about this because I know I'm right.

I have four different memories that all seem to have happened around the same time, although I'm not sure of their order.

One is of my cousin Ryan talking to his mom, my aunt Sally. We were in the basement of their house and she came to the top of the stairs and the two had some conversation. Ryan is a couple of years older than me, and I remember watching them talk and being impressed that Ryan could have a conversation with an adult because I was just barely too young to understand what they were saying.

I remember pulling a little horsey on wheels down the hallway at our house, barely able to take a few steps without stumbling, and my mom stepped into the hallway holding my baby sister, who was an infant (only 18 months younger than me). There was a big mirror at the end of the hallway behind her, and I remember that when she stepped in front of it, it blocked my view. I had been watching myself get closer to the mirror as I pulled the horsey toward it.

I remember going to my great grandpa McCann's funeral. I was wearing my favorite clip-on bow tie. My dad picked me up so I could look into the open casket. When I did, I reached down and tried to touch grandpa's eyebrow, just as my dad pulled me away from it. I remember that vividly.

And I remember going with my dad either right before or right after the funeral to help clean out my great grandpa McCann's apartment. I remember that he was living on the second floor, that it smelled like cigarette smoke, and that some men were taking his mattress down the stairs to the parking lot.

Each of these memories would have happened right around the time I turned three or just before.

They're dreamlike. Almost fuzzy. And each one makes me sad in a way that's kind of hard to describe--the sort of hard-to-describe sadness that nostalgia brings. Why is that?

I told Skylar about these memories and about how old I would have been when they happened and that's when he defamed my good name and told me I had made all of this up because nobody can remember anything from before they were three. He is especially skeptical of the cousin story because he doesn't believe it's possible to form memories before being able to speak a language.

I texted my parents about the grandpa funeral memories and they confirmed some of the basic facts I had remembered on my own, including the timing of his death. These are things that no one would have ever told me.

I've had friends tell me that they remember traumatizing experiences from a very early age, but nothing else from that same time. And I know that a lot of counseling is often all about pulling these types of memories to the surface and trying to understand them. I have a friend who told me years ago that he had been really struggling with some fears all his life and had no idea why. He finally saw a therapist and after several sessions, he suddenly had a traumatic memory pop into his head. It was something that happened to him when he was two and something that he had not remembered until therapy. (I've mentioned BetterHelp before, and I'll do it again, for anyone looking for counseling services.)

But none of these early four memories are really about any kind of trauma, so I'm not really sure why I remember them. And for the past couple of weeks I've been trying to figure this out, to no avail.

So if you guys could tell Skylar he's wrong and also explain to me why I remember these things, that would be great.

And while you're at it, if you are comfortable sharing, what is your earliest memory and why do you think you remember it?

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I was about 4 years old, and was doing the thing that kids do when they aren't good at swimming yet. Jumping into the swimming pool, being caught by an adult, returned to the edge of the pool, and repeat. I remember the last time I jumped in. I was determined to jump really far, so I stuck my tongue out a little bit because I was concentrating hard. My aunt told me not to stick my tongue out, so I stuck it out further. I sailed through the air, and jumped farther than I had before. Unfortunately, I jumped too far, and when my aunt caught me, my chin made contact with the top of her head. I remember bits and pieces of the melee that followed. The doctor said that tongues couldn't be stitched and sent me home with instructions to eat soft things and cold things. I remember one day, probably weeks later, my mom came and asked me if I could eat spaghetti for dinner. I requested a popsicle and a cookie instead, and got them. Best dinner ever. Pretty sure the first one was retained because trauma, and the second because extreme joy.

  2. I had a security blanket that was this pink and purple woven thing. the edges were worn out and fraying and i'd take the strings and wind them around my fingers. I remember that blanket going in the wash and coming back with all those strings cut off. I would have been about 3. My mom told me the washing machine did it. When I was 4 my brother had his security blanket cut in half (it was an old towel ) and I remember insisting that my blanket be cut in half too. I cried about it afterwards. I still have a piece of that blanket.

  3. There's evidence that when we think we're remembering an event, we're often instead remembering the last time we remembered the event (or our previous memory of it), which is how memories become muddled and distorted over time. When I was about 5 or 6, my mom said something about people not having memories from before about 4 years old, and I said, "That's not true!" and told her a whole bunch of things I remembered from my early childhood, when I was only 2 or 3 years old. My mom confirmed the accuracy of my recollections, but said that I'd probably start forgetting these things as I got to be older. I didn't want to lose my memories, so, over the next ten years or so, I'd periodically review what I could remember and make sure I wasn't losing anything. And I think that's why I remember so many things that happened when I was extremely little - I'm actually remembering the fresher memory of subsequent times when I thought about those events.

    I don't know what my earliest memory is exactly, but one of the earliest is of playing in my dad's study and then suddenly freaking out because the built-in drawers in the walls reminded me of a nightmare I'd had in which a kidnapper grabbed me off the street in a white van and took me to his murder house, where he had a neatly labeled filing cabinet full of dismembered body parts taken from his previous victims (left ears in this drawer, right ears in that drawer, thumbs in the next cabinet, etc.). I was always a puzzled about where such a gruesome nightmare had come from, until a few years ago when my older sister told me that she was always terrified of kidnappers when we lived in that city because there'd been a highly publicized unsolved kidnapping of a 7-year old girl who was snatched off the street in our neighborhood and found dead in a nearby alleyway the next morning. I looked it up and discovered that this crime occurred when I was 22 months old. I don't know when exactly I had the nightmare, but I can't have been more than 3.5, since that's when we moved away from the house where my dad had that study with the filing cabinets in the walls. And I was probably closer to 2, maybe not even 2 yet.

    I also have lots of memories that aren't traumatic, like swinging on our big porch spring, and going to the zoo to watch the polar bears, and going to the hospital to see my little brother the day after he was born.

  4. Eli, do you find that when you remember things too often (like replay the memories repeatedly) that you begin to forget the details, and so the memory becomes a memory of the memory??

    I have that with my earliest memory, where I was also around 3. I was playing kitchen with my cousin and feeding him with my tea set fork. The fork was small and white. My aunt sat nearby on the couch, and told me to be careful not to choke him. I told her I wouldn't do that. (I remember being surprised she would think I was trying to hurt him. Now I realize she didn't think I was purposely hurting her son hahaha.)
    I used to remember the colors my aunt was wearing, and to be able to see my pink kitchen set. But I don't see those details anymore.

  5. Dramatic knitting artist.June 1, 2018 at 6:34 AM

    My earliest memory is of me jumping up and down in my crib. It's very early morning, because it's dark yet lightening up, and I hear my parents. I distinctly remember my mother coming into the room smiling and asking me what I am doing. I don't remember if she got me out of the crib or laid me back down. I must have been two. The memory was triggered when I walked into my son's room when he was a baby and he was jumping up and down in his crib.

  6. I would have been 3: a quick memory of a time living in an apartment near the beach in Costa Mesa, CA. My parents took me on a walk, and I clearly remember there being a dock or boardwalk next to a boat floating in unnaturally blue water somewhere in the plaza of these apartments. I stooped down, probably to try and touch the water, and got my finger stuck in a knot-hole in the wood. It's not life changing our important in any way, and I often wonder why that is the earliest memory my brain chooses to recall.

  7. My mom has memories from just before three, but they didn’t start coming back until she was older. But like you said it was things no one would have told her (the layout of her first home, including wallpaper) but she has confirmed it with older siblings. This was before mass pictures too, so she didn’t remember it secondhand from a photo either. I don’t really know what my earliest memory is and I don’t know if I remember it actually, or because of photos like I mentioned. But I do believe you about yours. Sometimes I think I would remember more about my childhood if we hadn’t moved as often growing up, but my husband parents still live in the same house and he remembers so little about his childhood so who knows.

  8. Oh! This one's not mine, but it throws me off every time my 4yo brings it up: she was 2. We took the kids to chuck e cheese for her sister's birthday, and the then 2yo wandered off. Eventually someone found her, she was playing in this fun house/maze thing. She was stuck in a room of mirrors. To this day, she will occasionally remind us of the time when she was lost among the mirrors. She was 2! Granted, that was two years ago and she's got a lot more memories to make to fill up her brain space, but I'm curious and excited to see if she'll retain that memory. I can only imagine how traumatizing that was for her.

  9. The earliest memory I can date was from when I was five. I remember being at my grandfather's rosary and being bored. I was wearing a black skirt with pink roses on it. And I remember jumping over a ditch at dusk with it on - I have no idea why.

    I also remember crawling into bed with my older sister (she's 14 years older than me) when I was very young after having a bad dream. This is also likely when I was 5 because she was pregnant and living at home at that time. I remember crawling into her bed but I remember the nightmares more - one had something to do with road signs (like stop and yield and speed limits, etc). The other had to do with being trapped in a burning room.

    Eli - was Grandpa McCann the first dead body you saw? Maybe you remember things from this time because of that

  10. I went to Germany with my family and turned 3 during our trip there. I have a hazy memory of walking down this cobblestone street that we stayed on. It's really more of a snapshot of the street than a "moving" memory.

  11. Okay, I think Skylar has a bit of a point about memories being linked to language, because I have clear (and confirmed) memories from when I was not quite two of my dad carrying me in a hospital, my mom walking next to us while very pregnant with my little sister, and my grandfather being pushed on a hospital bed for heart surgery.
    The interesting part is that both my parents were sign language interpreters, and taught me almost 200 signs by the time I was 18 months old. (I remember maybe 20 now...) So I have a lot of very clear, very young childhood memories and I've always theorized that it linked to my ability to use language at a relatively younger age.

  12. One of my earliest memories is from when I was around 3 or so. My brother and I were sledding in our backyard. There was a small group of skinny trees at the top of the hill on one side of the backyard, which is where we started our sledding. The hill sloped down into the woods behind our yard. My brother was sitting behind me on our long, plastic, red sled. I remember we were going pretty fast, and I put my hand out to touch the snow. My hand, with my mitten on it, somehow got stuck underneath the sled as we were moving, and I remember the cold and the stinging sensation as my glove came off. I also have a vague memory of the bedroom I shared with my brother in that same house (from around ages 2 - 4). There was a door to the attic in our room, and we had bunk beds.

  13. I remember being at my great aunt's house for a holiday...4th of July or Memorial Day? There were fireworks and we walked to the top of a little hill behind her house and stood by a chain link fence to watch but when the fireworks started, I was scared and my dad carried me back down the hill and we waited in the back yard for everyone else to come back. I could not have been more than 2.5 - 3 at the time. And I confirmed this with my parents - it really happened that way!

    However, I also have a VIVID memory of being at my aunt's house for a family get-together and getting sick. I had on blue pajamas and was running a very high fever. My mom carried me to the some point we ended up at the ER and they put me in an ice bath to bring down the fever. I remember screaming and crying and the nurses holding me in the tub. And my parents tell me this never happened, sooo...I guess that was a dream? But it seems SO REAL, like I can FEEL the way the ice felt and I have pictures of me in those same blue pajamas...

  14. When I was four years old, my aunt had her first child, a boy. I remember telling her he looked like a hot dog (he really didn't!). My other very vivid memory is when I was five, my mother took me to register for kindergarten. I remember meeting the teacher, Mrs.Best. She complimented me on the dress I was wearing--a green and white dotted swiss dress. I loved that dress ( and Mrs. Best!).

  15. My earliest memory was of my grandmother and me sitting on the stairs in our house and going up one by one. I remember us having a very good conversation. I mentioned it to my parents when I was a teenager and they said it couldn’t have happened because my grandmother had had a stroke and couldn’t talk and I was around 2 when she passed away. She had come to live with us in her final year. I don’t care what they say, I remember it very clearly.

  16. I'm pretty sure I had a sandwich for lunch, it was pizza.

  17. Scientifically, you don't start forming NARRATIVE memories – in other words, memories that follow a story or chain of events – until you're about 5 or 6. It's absolutely normal to have flashes or fragments of memories prior to that. Just sayin', Skylar.

  18. I was two (in your face Skylar). My dad had painted the wall of my playroom with colourful letters and numbers. the number three was painted with a flat top and not a curved top, and I was terrified of it. If I opened the playroom door, the number was covered up by the door. I really wanted to close the door and be alone in my playroom sanctuary, but then I'd be shut up alone with the evil three. The letters and numbers got painted over when I was still two, which is how I know when the memory came from. I also know that this is an actual memory because I didn't tell anyone about it until I was in my teens - my poor mom was mortified that they'd tried to do something special for me and I was terrified by it.

  19. I have three earliest memories, and I don't know what order they're in. One is of playing with a toy dump truck in a dirt pile in our backyard. We moved away from that house when I was three, so it was before that. I also remember being at my grandparents house in just a diaper and their dachshund was chasing me. All the adults in the room were laughing, and I was mad at them because I was terrified the dog would bite me. And I remember lying in a crib sucking on a bottle, with the babysitter and her friend looking at me and talking about how well I held the bottle by myself. I don't know how old I would have been for that, but I can't imagine I was very old. Maybe the dog memory was a little traumatic, but the others definitely weren't. They're just instances that stuck with me for some reason.

  20. I think my earliest memory was from when I was two years and five months when my sister was born. I remember my grandma helping me get out of the car and saying I was going to go meet my baby sister. I don't know if I knew the exact words she was saying, but I clearly remember this getting out of the car and then going into the hospital. I don't think I actually remember meeting my sister though, just what happened right before.

  21. Growing up, I sang and danced with my two older brothers. I started voice lessons when I was 3 and did my first TV show at 4. The show was over in Canada (we lived in Detroit) so after we performed, the host came over to interview us. I was the cute little girl, so she decided to interview me. I'm sure she thought the questions were innocent and easy enough. She asked our names and then where we were from. Now, even as a four year old I was determined to not sound stupid. I knew if I said "Ecorse," no one would know where that was. If I said "Detroit," I would be lying. If I said "the United States," that would sound stupid. Soooo, I looked at her and said, "in a house." End of interview.

  22. I have two early memories that are pretty clear.

    The first one is being left in nursery at church, so I would have been between 18 months and 3 years. I remember the intense feeling of panic, and banging on the door so my mom would come get me.

    The second one is my brother's baby blessing, I would have been two and a half. I remember wandering around the room looking for my mom (not panicked this time, more just curious?).

  23. One of my earliest memories is from February of 1971 when I was almost 4 years old. My family was living in Southern California at the time. It was very early in the morning and still dark outside but my oldest brother, who was 9, and I were sitting at the breakfast bar eating Captain Crunch cereal. All of the sudden the dishes and glasses started clinking around in the cabinets, my mom yelled at my dad to go get my other brother out of the bedroom. She grabbed my oldest brother and I and crouched under the table. The ground felt like it was rolling and I remember my brother and I laughing. I don’t know if it was nervous laughter or “oh yay! Another earthquake!” laughter. I just remember giggling under the table as my mom protected us with her body. Luckily my dad got to my brother’s room in time to catch him as he was falling out of his top bunk. We moved to Utah shortly after that.

    I also have vivid memories of riding in the camper on the back of my grandfather’s truck. He would load the grandkids in the camper and take us for ice cream. (Is that even legal?) there was a sliding window on the camper that gave you access to the cab of the truck and I would hang half my body through that window to talk to “Pa” I was most definitely his favorite grandchild!

  24. I remember sitting next to my grandma at her mother's funeral. I was around 5 years old and didn't really understand why grandma was crying. I believe it was during that funeral my cousins and I sang the LDS Primary song "Little purple pansies". I've always loves purple pansies, and I have some growing in a pot in my front yard right now.

    I also remember a few recurring dreams I had as a child - some were nightmares that I'd get regularly. But my favorite one was hanging out with N'SYNC in my kitchen, just me and the boys.

  25. I have some clear memories from when my grandparents used to watch me while my mom worked. We moved away before I turned 3, so I would have been 2. The first is I remember watching my favorite show "Today's Special."(The one where the store mannequin comes to life at night.) A few years later I asked my mom what the show was called because I had forgotten about and then remembered it. But I distinctly remember laying on the couch in my grandparents' study watching the show, so it's not just a memory of the show itself.

    Another memory from those days is putting straw from the floor of my grandpa's workshed through the chain link fence of their husky's kennel into her water dish. I wanted to help feed her, and that was what made sense to me. I did it often. They had to give her away when I was in kindergarten because they went on a mission, but I remembered that every time I visited them after that because the smell of the straw in my grandpa's shed brought the memory back. I read an article once that smells can be very strongly tied to memories, so that's probably why. Maybe you remember your great grandpa's apartment so well because of the smoky smell. Are there smells that you associate with the other memories?

    Actually, that reminds me of another smell/memory association I've experienced. Sometimes a smell takes me back to a moment, not exactly remembering it, but it's like I'm in that moment for the split second I smell it. For instance, I recently got a free sample of a brand of baby wipes I don't usually buy. When I opened the package, I was immediately taken back to recovering in the hospital after having my second baby. It wasn't a memory so much as the sensation of being there for that split second I first smelled the wipes. That must be the brand of wipes they had in that hospital.

    Well, there is some smell I've caught a whiff of once every blue moon throughout my life that takes me back to the sensation of being a baby/toddler for the split second I'm smelling it. Again, not a memory, just the sensation. The annoying thing is I don't know what the trigger smell even is! It happened a few months ago for the first time in a long time. Super weird.

  26. I think I have very few real memories of my childhood, because in pretty much all of them, I see them as if I'm watching it happen. Like I'm not in my body, I'm viewing myself do whatever. But maybe that's how all people remember their memories?

    My nine year old daughter filled out a school paper on me for Mother's Day. One thing was first memory with Mom, and she wrote "learning how to walk." No way. There is truly no way she could actually remember learning how to walk. She was just 10 months old. So that's clearly a memory she's created through seeing home videos and pictures.

    I'm really banking on this long term memory not starting until around age five theory. I have four kids, and I took great comfort in knowing "well, they won't remember this!" in the moments when I lose my temper or spent the day reading a book and feeding them not the best meals. (I'm often a really super mom, but sometimes I'm not.)

  27. I have always had a terrible memory. Even as a child. I would forget where my classroom was even though I went to it 5 days a week. I would forget very simple things. I grew up not remembering things. As an adult I have always had a terrible memory and after having been in a coma for 12 days my memory went kaput.

    I've heard stories of people remembering every moment of being in a coma, of actually seeing their great aunt Edna, and recalling what she said to him when he came out of it. I did not have that experience. When I woke up I didn't remember anything. I did not know why I was in the hospital. My brain concocted a scenerio where I was there to have my uterus removed. I cried that all my memories were gone. Then my husband pulled out his phone and we looked over pictures and every memory wasn't gone. A doctor told me I would get them back in 12 months. When my memories did NOT come back after 12 months the doctor told me the memories that would come back would be back in 12 months. That's what he meant. Every now and then I will catch a piece of something in my head. Sometimes I can make out what is happening and sometimes not.

    So, I rely on sticky notes, pictures on my phone (mostly my dog) and my husband to remember things. Sometimes I can recite exactly what movie we watched the night before. Other times, I won't remember my son coming to visit and watching a movie with him. To me, it's like it didn't happen. I have ZERO memory of it.

    Memory is SO weird.

    1. How do you cope with this? I would have a really hard time knowing that my life was moving on but not being able to remember most of it.

  28. I was about 3 years old and we were at my grandparents house in Claremont California (near L.A.). My Grandparents had the COOLEST dinner table that had underneath it what I assumed was a cave for exploring, but was in reality some sort cabinet for storing, uh things you would like to store under a dinner table. . . it was always empty, but I would frequently go there to play. It was right next to a glass sliding door. One night I must have fell asleep, because I remember looking out the door and seeing an owl in a tree. As soon as I noticed it I started floating up towards it like the ending scene of this Awolnation music video ( I floated up towards it endlessly and it just kept staring at me. That's all I remember. I must have woken up terrified underneath the table, but I don't remember that part (except for the terrified bit). I didn't worry about it much until a friend told me the plot of the movie The Fourth Kind which apparently is about how owls watch you through the window but that really means you've been abducted by aliens. I was terrified of aliens until I was about . . .23 years old. . . and now I've realized it is probably due to suppressed memories. . .

  29. I was crawling - yes crawling- towards one of the low windows in our living room so I could look outside. I was maybe 7 or 8 months old. My mom verified that from the time I could move I would always go to the windows and look out.

  30. I actually was having a conversation with my dad about early memories and I told him that I remembered seeing my dad standing in their bedroom doorway talking to my mom that was in the room. I wanted to go into the bedroom to see my mom and as I tried to walk through the doorway and my dad pulled me back and said, "No. No. You can't go in there."
    I was unsteady when he pulled me back and I fell onto my bum. I just started crying because I couldn't see my mom.
    When I asked him about it, he told me that the reason I couldn't go into the bedroom was that my mom was going through radiation treatments and nobody was allowed to be in the same room as her. He said that I was around 18 months old when that happened.
    I also remember bits and pieces of potty training a little bit after that...I would say that both are traumatic to a young child.

  31. We moved houses when I was 3, and I have several memories from before the move that weren't traumatic.

    I remember sitting with my two neighborhood friends on the lawn, and one of them was eating grass and I thought she was weird.

    I remember going to my best friend's house for dinner. His dad looked like Bob Ross and he made us spaghetti.

    I remember the stupid neighbor I disliked coming over and breaking my brand-new toy *even though I told him not to touch it, you always broke my stuff, Andy!!!* ...Okay well maybe that one was slightly traumatic, but I digress.

  32. I am an adoptive mom. Our youngest came home from Ukraine when she was 18 months old. At around the age of 5, we moved to a new house which proved to be kind of re-traumatizing for her. In the course of some counseling at that time, she was asked to describe what a “safe” place was for her. She did not describe our family or our house. Instead, she described the orphanage setting, though she didn’t attach the word orphanage to what she described. She said it was big, loud, cold, had lots of babies and kids who were crying or yelling, and had lots of fences. (Their giant play pens in the orphanage had vertical bars.) Subsequently, we did a different kind of therapy with her that was targeted at building stronger/smoother left and right hemisphere connections that probably didn’t “wire up” naturally from her under-stimulating institutional environment. Our therapist said that early, pre-verbal trauma can generally not be worked on through talk therapy alone because the memories (images and feelings) have no language attached to them. It’s tricky with early memories, particularly for adopted kids, when you don’t have anyone who can validate and reinforce them alongside the child. So, those memories fade, morph, and emerge again, sometimes in hard to understand feelings and behaviors.

  33. When I was three, I had open heart surgery. Back in the 60s, this was a pretty big deal. Even now too, I guess. Anyway, I have a memory of being in a hospital room. No real specific details though. I also remember what I think was the recovery room or possibly operating. There was a smell, which I have since determined was ether. Anytime I have smelled that smell again, I know it is from that room. On a less traumatic note, I remember my father and another man moving a recliner into the house we lived in when I was little. Maybe 2 or 3.

  34. I was just over a year old when I broke my foot in a falling-down-the-stairs accident. I don't remember the incident itself or any pain, but I am 97% sure I remember one of the follow-up x-rays. I could almost draw a picture of the room. I was sitting on a table with something big coming down out of the ceiling to just above my foot; someone, probably my mom, was next to me on the left. I also remember bits of a vacation we took when I was 2-1/2, including walking through a bird sanctuary close to the beach in the evening, and getting on the plane to come home. My mom confirmed both of those details. I was talking in almost full sentences by the time I was 18 months old, and I have a very visual memory.

  35. I remember being in my bedroom that I shared with my sister, before my parents remodeled and added a 2nd story to our house. I remember sitting on the stairs at my grandma's house and my mom was showing me twisting a button on a string, while we were living there during the remodel. I remember walking through the upper story, the walls framed, but no drywall on, walking down the new hallway, and looking out what was to be closet and being able to see down to the living room. My parents had the 2nd story built on when I was two years old. So you're not alone. No trauma.... just fuzzy snaps of moments of my early life.

  36. I have an oddly large collection of memories from very, very early in life. A few of them come from before I even knew how to walk. However, I am the youngest of six children, and started talking in full sentences before I could walk (my siblings are to this day extremely proud that they raised a prodigy), so maybe early language explains such early memories? One of my earliest is climbing out of my crib and feeling frustration that my sleeper sack impeded my ability to crawl down the hallway to the kitchen where the rest of my family was eating breakfast—then being delighted at their exclamations of surprise when I finally arrived.

  37. My very first memory is of my third birthday, I had a 101 Dalmatians themed birthday cake. My next memory is fairly soon after that; I'm in a hospital going in for hernia surgery. They're giving me bubblegum flavored air (I guess that was a 90s thing in hospitals? flavored air for kids??) and telling me to count backwards from 100, and I ask "In English or Portuguese?"

  38. My dad always joked that he doesn’t remember his childhood at all but my aunt (his younger sister) claimed to remember things in utero.

    I find my memory isn’t always good at recall; when asked a vague question like “what’s the first memory you have?” I come up blank, but if asked something more specific like “have you ever done this activity?” I can usually think of it.

    My early memories unbidden tend to be snippets of things. The floral ‘70s wallpaper in my room. The pink duplex we lived in until I was 3. Watching the fire department burn down an old house from my front porch with my grandpa. The long drive out of the city to my cousins’ house. Playing with rotary phones in the church nursery.

    I don’t recall the more traumatic moments of my childhood; I know the stories because they’ve been told so many times but they’re stories to me, not memories — the time I jumped (or maybe fell) into a pool and my uncle had to jump in to save me, or the time I ran into traffic while my mom screamed for me to stay put. Or the time I tried to cross a busy street to go to daycare and a stranger found me and brought me home.

    I think my favorite early memory though is from when I was four and I entered a coloring contest at a local restaurant chain with my god sister. I explicitly remember copying her coloring technique, but choosing different colors. I was a finalist so my family and I were invited to an honorary dinner where they handed out the prizes. And I remember the major disappointment when I didn’t get the cool prizes of rollerblades or bikes.

    Instead, I won the grand prize, a trip to a water park in Idaho. They handed me an envelope and I was bitterly upset.

    I do not for the life of me remember the trip. My parents assure me I had a blast. The pictures do look fun.