I’ve got to learn how to fine-tune the secretion of these “creative juices.” Waking up at 4 a.m. only to fight the urge to write about something – sometimes anything – is somewhat inconvenient. Perhaps it’s better this way. The world is quiet right now. At least my world is quiet right now. Globally, of course, there is much to be concerned about. However, my thoughts this morning are much more benign – almost innocent.
For some strange reason, I found myself searching my memory for my first memory. Actually, I’ve known what it is for quite some time, so I guess I was again trying to authenticate it. You know, asking myself if it was even real. Am I remembering an actual event, or is it the memory of a memory? I know, I know – but I’m not dangerous to myself or others. There is a significant gap between my first memory and the next, and although there is little doubt about that very first one, I cannot be sure which of several snapshots in time follows it, chronologically.
I was born in December of 1962. No, I don’t remember that, but I am told it’s true. In November of 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. Don’t remember that either, but the historical record is pretty clear, conspiracy theories notwithstanding. I also don’t remember anything about the first home I lived in, an apartment in what was then unincorporated San Mateo County, California – south of San Francisco, north of San Jose. I do, however have some sketchy recollection of my second home – the first house my parents purchased.
It was on Ralston Avenue in the city of Belmont, California. My own internal historical records don’t contain that much detail, it is hearsay, but reliable nonetheless. I remember dream-like details of the front of the house, the road it was on and, to a lesser extent, the interior. We lived there around two or three years… I know that in November 1964 when my brother was born, we lived there and in September 1966, when my sister was, we didn’t. I do remember when my sister came along – not vividly, but indelibly. It is among the contenders for my second memory.
The first one involves my little brother. It had to be some time in 1965. The recollection is like a photo or, at most, a very short video clip – two or three seconds, tops. It is a frame of my paternal grandparents and me standing in front of that old Belmont house, at the top of the driveway. My brother was in a stroller. It was windy and cool, if not cold. According to my parents, it was usually windy and cold there. The house was at the top of a hill. When they were shown the house, they say, it was one of the two nice days of the year. When they sold it – same story.
The memory is not nearly as concrete as the rest of my early childhood memories. It has an ethereal quality, far more dream-like than real. If it were not for the connection between what I remember and the reality years later when I drove past that old home, I would discount it as nothing more than a surreal dream. The gap between my first and second mental imprints is lengthy – perhaps a year or more. It is among the reasons that I question the authenticity of that first one. Furthermore, it is the only solid memory I can actually form from those times. There are other wispy images, but I just can’t quite crystallize them.
I always used to think that for one to have memories, one must have a language to remember in. I never had any factual basis for this theory; it just made sense to me. In my thinking, it is one of the things that separate us from other animals. And although language certainly does, I no longer believe it is necessary to form memories. I have friends that say they “think in pictures.” That never made any sense to me – I think in words… and sometimes numbers. But it was perhaps this myopia that prevented me from lending any real credence to what are, in actuality, real memories from my very early years.
So what does all this mean in the quiet pre-dawn hours of a Wednesday morning? I’m not quite sure – I never am. This is what came out. It wasn’t on the “back burner;” it wasn’t on any burner, it was, like so much else it seems, just there. And I wrote about it. Now I’m done. It’s time to either put on a pot of coffee or go back to bed…