The first memory

My first memory is pretty clear. What’s not clear is whether it’s real.

Here’s how it goes:

I am small because I am only 5. It was 1949. I am in the bed of my maternal granddaddy’s Ford pickup truck. My sister, who would have been 8, and my granddaddy, age unknown at the moment, were standing beside the truck.

Age 7
Age 7

We are outside the farmhouse where we lived in southwest Georgia. The subject of conversation was my impending first day of kindergarten. I was apprehensive.

My sister, who was kind to me when I was young, was telling me how much I would like kindergarten. I don’t recall my granddaddy saying anything. He was the silent type, and he died when I was 12.

A few days later, perhaps it was the next day, I recall entering kindergarten. My mother delivered me, and I squalled like a stuck pig but — as is often the case — I settled down quickly when my mother vanished from view.

The teacher likely was a nun. I recall nothing of her, but I spent kindergarten and First Grade in a Catholic school even though my family is not Catholic. It simply was the best school in Albany, Georgia, or so thought my parents.

By the Second Grade, we had moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and I went to public school from then on. I always did well at school. From kindergarten to LSU, I got good grades, and teachers liked me. I was a very good boy.

It was only later that I went haywire.

As I say, I am not sure if that memory, there in the Ford pickup truck, really happened. I think it did. Memories — like life — can play tricks on you.

* * * *

(Tip of the sombrero to Jennifer Rose for this topic idea. Alas, I think I’ve written about this before. But I cannot remember.)

12 thoughts on “The first memory

  1. It was the winter after what would’ve been my second birthday. We lived in Ankara, but I didn’t know it was Ankara at the time. My mother was the art teacher at the American school, leaving me in the care of Zara, my dark chocolate nanny whom I thought was really my mother. My other mother was just this pretty lady who got all dressed up in fancy clothes to go places. One of the places she would take me was Karpage’s, a restaurant where the embassy people hung out and danced in the middle of the day. My reward for sitting still throughout the meal was an orange, which had been sitting in front of my plate, peeled by the waiter in a single, spiral peel with a lot of ceremony.

    Two memories stand out. One was sitting in a cardboard box, maybe it was a wooden crate, on the balcony, dressed in a red snowsuit. The box was magical – it could be my boat, my house, anything I wanted. I loved that box. Walking upstairs was no problem, but walking down them was filled with terror. I would stand at the top of the stairs and scream for Zara to come and take me downstairs.


  2. I thought of this the other day. My first memory was being in a garage. I was maybe 5. It was beside a house my mom rented (my dad left when I was 1). The memory is of a smell, well two, one of old oil on a dusty garage floor and the smell from an old whiskey bottle that I found on the ground of the garage that I picked up to see what had been in it.


      1. We are the long and short of it. You are tall and eloquent. I am short (5’8″) and, don’t know the word for it, unelequent would work. I see by spellcheck, unelequent isn’t a word, damn. Well, you know what I mean.


        1. Bob: Sometimes it’s necessary to force prefixes. Some dictionaries will object, some not. However, your problem was that you spelled eloquent correctly the first time, and then switched to a misspelling, elequent, the word you looked up.

          No matter. You are more eloquent than most folks most all the time.


  3. I have a number of memories prior to the age of five. The most vivid memory was nearly drowning in Late Itasca in northern Minnesota when I was three.

    This lake is considered the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Fortunately my parents rescued me in time or I wouldn’t be having this memory on this plane of existence.


  4. Wow. My first detailed memory was also at the age of five. I had recently come to the States and I remember vividly my first day in Kindergarden. Everyone was friendly, even though I only spoke Spanish. I don’t remember how it happened, but I became fluent in English quickly.


  5. One of my earliest memories was probably age 4. I was not in school, yet. My neighbor-in-crime, anther 4 year old miscreant, was with me. We were hiding behind the wash shed, waiting for the milk man to make a delivery. He had a habit of smoking only about 1/2 a cigarette and flicking it in the yard. As soon as the glass bottles were on the step, and he turned his back to walk to the truck, we sprang into action. We were, in a sense, Smoky and the Bandit. The boy and I picked it while the smoke still was curling off the butt. We both sucked a bit of smoke, choked up half of our lungs and ran further afield toward the orange orchard to empty our lungs of the god-awful stuff. Our adventures in smoking ended for nearly 10 years, at least for my boy neighbor. I never did take to it. As I recall he branched out into growing pharmacueticals near the same orange grove. He made pocket change from growing marijuana in high school. Later, he graduated with a degree in pharmacology. His mama was proud.


    1. Laurie: The first smoke and the first beer are memorable experiences. Well, not always. I do not remember my first smoke, something I did lightly for years and stopped about 25 years ago, but I do remember my first beer, or taste of beer. I was about 6, and my father gave me a sip of his because I wanted it. Thought it was dreadful.


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