As I write this, in my mid-sixties, I find that my memories of early childhood are fleeting sense memories for the most part. They come at me as an ebb and flow. Sometimes they are visual, sometimes a smell, or sometimes an emotion. I ask my sister if she remembers things as I do and find that her memories are vastly different than mine. I can’t remember hers and she can’t remember mine. So I realize the singularness of our memories and how important they are to record in some fashion. Here are some of my fleeting memories:
Memory #1 located in a wooden bungalow in Chula Vista, California that housed service families during WWII. I was about 3 years old:
The counter seemed to be insurmountable. It was there in front of me. I reached and reached and could not get a handhold to pull myself up. How to solve this dilemma? How to get my body up from the floor to the sweet treat I had seen in the cupboard? I pushed the short ottoman to the edge of the counter and stood upon it. It still did not give me purchase to climb aboard. What can I do? How can I get up there? Ah ha. The kitchen chair can be pushed from the table to the counter. My chubby little hands grabbed the chair rails and pulled. And pulled some more. Gradually, the chair was moving to the edge of the counter. Once it had arrived, now I was determined to stand upon it and reach for those hidden treats I had seen earlier.
My short legs helped me to stand on the chair. I was getting closer. Now, just to hop on the counter. Then reach into the cupboard for the glass jar filled with colored sweetness. I inched the door open and grabbed the glass jar. Ah sweet success. And now, I must figure out how to remove the lid solidly attached to the top and have just managed it when:
“Marsha! Marsha!! NO!!! Put that down right NOW. That is not for you!” As my parents rush to me.
“Those are dog vitamins NOT for little girls.” I am pulled close and let down to the floor. I can see the worry and fear in my parents’ faces. Has she eaten one or more? Will they hurt her? What should we do?
Memory #2 located somewhere in mid-America. Driving from Wisconsin to California. I was 2.
The sun is blinding me as I stand on the front bench seat of the station wagon. My little body is pressed against my father as he drives. I have visual memories of places I had never seen before. Desert, mountains and cacti. It has been days of driving. I reach my fingers out and grab my dad’s sunglasses. I do not remember the crash. Although, I have been told about it many times. I think the damage was minor. I don’t believe it hampered our travels at all. We continued on.
Memory #3 arriving by train into Appleton, Wisconsin .. perhaps around 5 years old.
The train ride was all about movement. Side to side. Clickity clack. The air stale. The bathrooms strong smelling. The black men who worked there were foreign but always very kind and gentle to me. The train stopped. My mother frantically collecting our things and shepherding my sister and I to the exit. I looked out the wide door and there was a wonderland right there in front of me. Snow covered every surface. The lights aside the wooden building shown golden light upon the whiteness. It was beautiful. It was piercingly cold.
This same trip, while staying at the Krull’s Mink Ranch, mom’s cousin Ruth family-owned business and home, we were able to play In the snow. I had no memories of being in the snow before. Pam and I played with Jimmy and John. We built a tunnel that snaked all over the front yard. It was so very cold. Would the snow collapse upon us? It was so very thrilling.
Memory #4 playing in the sandbox around 5 years old.
We are playing in a sandbox in a backyard. I’m not sure if it is our backyard are not but I know it is in the neighborhood where we bought a home on Billow Drive. Mom is with her best friend, Ethel Storm. She is very happy. I feel a sense of peace and comfort.
Memory #5 sitting on my father’s lap, early school-age.
Sunday nights were all about family. Everyone was home which was unusual. Dad worked two jobs. During the day he worked for Rohr Aircraft (in Chula Vista) as a jig builder. At night, he was a projectionist at the movie theater in Imperial Beach. Both places very far from our home in the then eastern portion of San Diego. Mom hadn’t started work yet but would soon, at Marstons Department Store. But this night, we are all together. We are getting ready to watch the Ed Sullivan Show. Every Sunday night we watched. It was so safe. It was so fun. We were together. I always was thrilled and happy to be sitting there but also anxious. Because I knew when the show was over, I would have to go to bed.
These memories seem so benign … sweet, little thoughts. My life is made up of such moments. It makes me who I am in part. Each of us have this bank of experiences, thoughts and emotions. Precious memories.