I am sitting on the carpet, staring up at an impossibly high ceiling, where giant brown beams criss-cross. My Aunt Joanie and Uncle Cliff stand over me – she on the left, he on the right – and my uncle isn’t wearing a shirt. He has a hairy chest and smiles, talking to my Aunt Joanie while looking at me. I am sixteen months old.
my dad, my mom, Aunt Joanie, Uncle Cliff with my bros Kent, Steve & cousin Dave circa ’63
For a long time, neuroscientists thought toddlers couldn’t have any serious long-term memories before the age of three, but most of that research has been upended – you can certainly have them, but they can be eradicated pretty quickly. I’ve always kept Lucy’s memories afloat from the time she began speaking, but now that she has turned six, I’m interested in which things are actually going to make the cut.
I have no idea why an odd, seemingly-uninteresting tableau of my aunt and uncle is my First Memory, but the details surrounding were verified later by both parents and Joanie, and the beams in the ceiling date the memory to a specific trip. Joanie and Cliff’s house had exactly those beams at the top of an open-space living room, and we visited them once in that house before they moved.
All things bein’ equal, I’ve got a pretty good memory of the distant past, and can recall vivid details of age of 2 and 3. If I live long enough, I could be one of the last humans with visceral (albeit vague, wispy and toddler-ish) memories of the 1960s. But that still leaves entire swaths – like age 6 to 9 – which might as well not have existed.
There’s something fascinating in there somewhere, but for research’s sake, let me leave you with this question: what is your first, somewhat verifiable memory – and how old were you at the time?
rockin’ the ’60s