What are your very first memories of life? What do you recall when life was full of firsts and everything was brand new? I don’t know how but somehow I do believe those early memories are uniquely important in our lives. How could they not be? We carry them around for a lifetime.
I was born near the shore of the great Pacific Ocean, but even before I was a few years old I had made the trip “back home” numerous times. Back home to my parents meant the hills of Oklahoma where they grew up, where their parents lived and so many of their brothers and sisters. It took three days and nights traveling in a car to get back home again. We often arrived in the wee hours of the night and daddy would carry me inside the old farmhouse and put me into one of my granny’s feather beds.
Even before I opened my eyes I knew where I was. No air but there could carry that scent of the ages. It smelled like the cedar trees in the woods behind the fields where my daddy grew up and the red dirt that looked unreal against all the green grasses and trees. Like the air in a library that seems to hold all the words of all the old books, the Oklahoma air also seemed to carry the scent of all the people who had ever lived there. That humid heavy air was unmistakable, even to a four year old.
I still often wake from a dream where I’ve breathed in that air once again while spending time with loved ones long gone. I’m sad for a while, but then thankful that I can at least see them once again in my dreams.
One of my earliest memories was of a trip back home. I didn’t understand that I’d never see my granddaddy again. I really didn’t know anything about death. I did know my daddy was sadder than I had ever seen him and mama seemed equally upset. My granddaddy who stood larger than life, who could do anything and everything, who loved me — he was gone.
Most times when we visited the folks, it was just mama and daddy and me there with my grandparents. This time was different on so many levels. I woke up to a house that was filled with people and all of them seemed so very sad. I wandered out into the hall and the first person I saw was a really big, old man in overalls sitting on granny’s couch. He had a big, gold pocket watch that he pulled out of one of his many pockets. I learned later that his name was Uncle Bud. It was the beginning of a very long day for me and everyone around me. It was a day I have never forgotten.
Our Earliest Memories Stays With Us
Why have I remembered this day in so much detail? Why can I still see the old man with the watch and still smell the dense air of the Oklahoma hills? I must ask my parents about their first memories. What have they carried around with them for their entire lives?
The older I get, the recent past seems to get lost in my mind, but not the memories of my childhood. I am not alone. Even those with mild to moderate dementia can remember their childhood and early adult years very clearly, even when they can’t remember what happened a moment ago. Perhaps our early years seem sweeter than our recent past. There are no limitations on hopes and dreams when we are young but they do seem to diminish in our later years.
I hope you will think about your own early memories and ask your older loved ones what they first remember about life. I know I will ask my own folks these questions. Perhaps I can carry their memories along with mine.
We’d love to hear about your first memories and your thoughts on why you’ve kept them in your heart.