Another blogging friend, Zeynep Ankara, told in one of her blogs of a very early childhood experience. She said of that experience, “I remember that night like today.” Then later, when she was in college, she told one of her psychology professors the story. But the professor told Zeynep that she “can’t remember for the first five years.”
So that got me thinking about my early childhood memories. Like Zeynep, I can clearly remember many things from my first five years. Some are good memories and some not so.
I love the peace and security I still feel when I remember laying in my crib in the early morning hours. I heard my father leave the house to go do chores. And then I stuck my feet through the bars of the crib and played footsie on the wall and listened to the birds begin to chirp as the sun welcomed another day.
Another happy memory was at the drive-in theater. Our whole family was in our Rambler station wagon. I was in the far back where the seat was folded down to make a bed. The movie playing was “It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world.” I remember listening to my Dad laughing so hard at that movie that it made me laugh, even though I couldn’t figure out what was funny in the movie.
Compared to what Zeynep wrote of, my bad early memories weren’t really that bad. I remember things like long boring church meetings, being picked on by bigger kids, and witnessing the cruel treatment of others. I also have some early memories which give me little reason to wonder why I became such an introvert.
I know some of my early experiences have made me a better person. One memory I have was when I was either three or four (depending on which younger sibling was the baby in my story.)
I walked into Mom’s room to ask her something. As I started into my question, “Mom, can I…?” Mom sent me out of her room abruptly, telling me she was trying to get the baby to sleep.
I felt “put out” by her, so I went into the kitchen where Linda, my two years older sister, was and said, “Mom is a Nincompoop.” Linda looked at me in shock and said, “I’m telling Mom.” She quickly ran to tell, and I was immediately struck with fear. Nincompoop was the meanest, ugliest word in my vocabulary. I ran upstairs and hid under my older brother’s bed.
Soon, though it seemed forever, Mom started calling my name from the bottom of the stairs. At first, I didn’t move. But as the sternness in Mom’s voice increased, my fear of the repercussions for disobedience exceeded my fear of facing punishment for my verbal disrespect. And so I was soon timidly standing at the top of the stairs.
I was compelled to make a confession of what I had said, and then I was taken to the bathroom where my mouth was washed out with soap and water. Mom then sent me out to help Dad. I was glad to go. I think that was what I was trying to ask Mom in the first place. As I stood out in the snow watching Dad work, I thought, “I’ll never call Mom any names again.”
To this day, I have always had complete respect and honor for both my mom and my dad. I’ve seen quite a few people who needed their mom to wash their mouth out with soap. I feel sorry for them.
While pondering my early memories, and how I now might be influenced by those memories, I have wondered about my Great grandma, Anna Christina Holm Haroldsen. She was still a small child when her father died. The harsh realities of survival in the American West of the 1860’s forced Anna’s mom into a marriage that wasn’t good. Like most men who lived in that area and era, Andrew Jensen had a nickname which everyone including family used. Andrew Jensen should have been known as “Wife and Kid Beater” but Brickmaker was the name which stuck.
Brickmaker was so brutal, even with his own children, that Anna’s mother sent her children away when they were only ten or eleven years old. She thought that facing the cruel world alone as youngsters would give them a better chance at survival then staying at home and within the reach of Brickmaker.
Anna worked for several other families in the area. Some treated her well, and others not. Wherever she stayed, the work hours were long and the pay amounted to little more than room and board. Later on, in her teen years, she worked for a cooperative dairy, milking, and herding cows in and out of the pasture.
Anna’s adult life was more normal as she married, raised a family and even kept her own small dairy herd, so she could make and sell butter to the folks in town.
Senility settled in on Anna in her later years. As time passed, she seemed to revert to her bitter childhood memories. She would sit in her rocking chair and twitch and flinch while muttering the hated name… Brickmaker… Brickmaker… Brickmaker.
So now I wonder, in my old age, will I become a total hermit, because of my early memories which I consider socially traumatic? I hope that my happy memories of life on our farm will be on my mind when I’m old and feeble. Maybe I can lie on my bed in some rest home, and put my feet on the wall through the bars of the guard rail, and watch the sunrise though my window while thinking that I can hear my father get up and quietly go out to do chores.
What are your earliest childhood memories?