...for a different kind of girl

silent surburban girl releasing her voice, not yet knowing what all she wants to say about her life and the things that make it spin. do you have to be 18 to be here? you'll know when i know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

'...memories are films about ghosts'

A dear friend and I were on the phone one afternoon last week. He called with no particular agenda but to catch up. Very quickly, we were laughing the way we always do when we connect. Gasping for air. Unable to speak. Challenging the other with the next comment that will send the other over the edge of hysterics. For two hours, I fluttered my hand in front of my face the way I do when I laugh like that, begged him to stop, and then taunted him with my clever bonsmots in hopes I'd bait him.

I quite love this friendship. I knew as soon as I met him more than 20 years ago that if I never had any other friends for the rest of my life, I'd be ok as long as I didn't lose his friendship. As though he knew at that moment what I was thinking during the pause I took to lift myself upright from a laughing jag and settle myself back onto my couch, he asked if I could remember the first time we met.

"Like it happened an hour ago," I replied. "You were walking down the dorm hall, gangly. All legs and arms. And that hair. God. That odd slant it had to it. And a color I have never seen anywhere before or since. I knew that if we became friends, I had to convince you to do something about that hair, and to quit wearing your sweatshirts inside out."

We then dissected a number of our mutual memories. His disastrous roommate adventures. How we both returned to campus after a weekend at home sporting the same awful heads of curly, bleached blond hair. How we'd burst into another roommate's room while she was in class and disgust ourselves by reading her journal. The way we were effortlessly able to pass him off as a girl. The brief stint when we lived together after college and we fell into this silly, platonic husband and wife routine.

"I remember so little of my childhood, but I remember this kind of stuff," he said. When he did, I realized that I have very few memories that I can pull up from my childhood. I've been working so hard at creating memories for my sons that I hope they remember (and I assume it's working, to some degree, because my oldest is forever saying to me "Mom, you remember that one time when we did that thing with those people and then we went over there and we got to do that other thing? When can we do that again?"), but I honestly can't recall much of my own childhood before the age of 11 or 12.

I have no reason to doubt my parents when they choose to tell the delightful story of how I stood at the back steps of our family home and screamed, cried and vomited (that's when they get the most delighted in the story telling) the night they left for the hospital to bring me home a baby sister. I was 2 1/2 years old. I didn't, apparently, need the competition.

Just as I don't remember the time I had my parents to myself, I don't remember them bringing my sister home, nor do I remember much of what it was like having her in the house as a baby. I do remember when she got a little older and I must have been four or five, and we'd race through our house to get to my bedroom - of which the only thing I can remember is the pink shag carpeting and the very same twin bed frame that my youngest son sleeps in today.

In the same house, at probably five or six years of age, I remember sitting at the window of my parent's bedroom and watching the cars come and go from the house across the street. I do remember my mom shooing me away when she'd find me watching the place, and how I ignored her one night when I found myself fascinated watching a pair of feet bobbing around as they dangled out the driver's side window of a car parked on the street in front of the place. Clearly, in retrospect, there were things going on in that car I knew nothing about then. Years later, when I brought it up to my mom when talk turned to my family's first home, she very clearly informed me that "drug dealers" lived across the street from us then and the neighbors were constantly calling the police.

I have vague recollections of that time period of playing outside, the car my father drove. But very little else before that or really up until the point I hit the age of 11 or 12. That seems insane to me that I can't remember what it was like to be younger than a preteen. Even when I look at pictures from that time, very few memories are spurred by the images (aside from the fact that we were apparently poor or my mom simply didn't like to shop because she made almost all our clothes - including, sigh, our underwear - until I couldn't bear dressing identically to my sister any longer). Part of me worries, because of this, that my own kids won't remember much of their childhood and the things I've done to help them along in it. Or worse, they'll just remember the times when I kind of checked out and couldn't do much for them and they'll manifest that into something worse than it was at the time.

So my question is what is the earliest memory you have? What today prompts that memory for you? Do you think it's a real event from your life or one you've created because it seems good and you don't seem that worried that it bears a striking similarity to something that happened on "The Brady Bunch" or some other sitcom? Because honestly, I was born in Hawaii and I seem to recall this legend of a cursed tiki statue...


Blogger Desmond Jones said...

Molly will often, as she wanders thru the house on any given day, bust out with Bette Midler's 'You Got to Have Friends'. Your post reminded me of that, and also that, yes indeed, really good, old friendships are like gold.

My college roommate and I have been tight ever since. We were Best Men for each other's weddings, have lived within two blocks of each other since we've been married, and even our kids are each other's best buds, going back to diaper days. It's like gold to have a friend that I can just call up on the spur of the moment, say "you wanna grab a beer?" and go solve the world's problems (and a few of my own) for a couple hours.

I'm blessed (at least I think it's a blessing) with a very good memory. I have lots of memories of my childhood, including several from before I went to school. I remember my dad taking my brother and me out one winter Sunday afternoon, when I was five or so, and standing in a clearing in the woods, watching my dad feed apples and carrots to a deer out of his hand. I remember my younger brother sitting on a hill of fire-ants, about the same time-frame (but in the summer).

I remember going to the adoption agency to pick up my brother; I'd have been about two-and-a-half then. My earliest memory is kinda hazy, and I'm not even sure if I'm remembering it, or something else - but I think that I remember the day I first came home with my parents after they adopted me; I'd have been right around a year old. . .

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post and good question FADKOG...I have sort of vignetted memories from early childhood, this and that. Nothing in the way of an entire epic, but just short snapshots here and there.

Riding on a little Ford tractor with my Grandpa to get the cows to come to the barn for milking, ca. age 3; hunting and fishing trips with my dad and grandpa...I can remember acting out "all star wrestling" for an audience of grands and greats, and various other things.

There's no doubt in my mind that keeping them fresh requires thinking about them, and talking about them with others. Just the other night TO cut her toe on something and she was commiserating on it, thinking she'd never walk again, and I told her to call her Uncle and discuss the Great Oakwood Lakes Little Toe Incident of 1975 with him...He didn't immediately recall that his toe was nearly severed going down the slide in the campground, but once we jogged his memory, the pain and the screams came back to him...I'm sure there are campers still who recall those bloodcurdling cries coming out of the shower house while Dad cleaned him up...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger FTN said...

Wow, this post scared me. I never really thought about the fact that my kids might lack a childhood memory the same way I do. That's, honestly, completely frightening to me. Because similarly to what you said, I work hard at building memories with my children.

My wife has a crazy memory. She can recall things she did at 2 or 3. I'm like you... or even worse. I don't have a great grasp of what I was doing before 14 or 15, honestly. My memory of my childhood is one half photographs, one half vague recollections that are more scenarios than specific memories. Which is weird, because I'm pretty sure I had a great childhood.

Unless something really traumatic happened that I've been suppressing all of these years...

Anyway, I sure hope my kids inherit my wife's memory and not my own. Thanks for frightening me with this post.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 1:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my earliest memory is of being on a camping trip at age 2 and meeting Smokey Bear. Evidently it was also on this trip where i wrote my first song, "Mommy's Gone" You might remember it. If not I'll sing it for you someday. It rocks.

I actually have pretty vivid memories from my childhood but they are about random things while other things (for instance I can't recall much of anything about Christmases until about age 10) are a vague fog of mushed up events and places. Now it seems I have trouble remembering what I walked into the room for.

cszzovex (good love)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 2:54:00 PM  
Blogger 2amsomewhere said...

Because honestly, I was born in Hawaii and I seem to recall this legend of a cursed tiki statue...

Nah, that was a Scooby Doo Where Are You episode from the second season*.

I have false memories of guys like Eric Clapton and CSNY coming by our house to play guitar with dad.


* -- I only know this because my older daughter is now watching all of the old Scooby Doo cartoons.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 3:56:00 PM  
Blogger Nanette said...

2amsomewhere--I'm pretty sure the Brady's had an episode or 3 with a cursed tiki statue in HI--maybe the writers for both shows were the same. :)

My earliest memory and the only vivid one before the age of about 13 is the day the ambulance came to take my dad--I was five going on six. I remember staring at the black and red crocheted afghan draped over the craftmatic adjustable bed. The lights from the ambulance were bouncing off of the wall. I can still see that blanket, the lint, the loose yarn--like it is right in front of my face.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 1:54:00 AM  
Blogger The Savage said...

My earliest memory is yesterday...... wait no.. I was 4.. wait...
Maybe I shouldn't have consumed so much alcohol...

Gonna miss you most of all Scarecrow....

Thursday, June 14, 2007 7:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh, memories. So many little snippets dance through my head throughout the years it's hard to keep track. Some are even accurate!

- I remember vaguely watching my younger brother being sprinkled at church. He was still in diaper so I was probably around 3yrs old.
- I remember LB dropping a hmmer on BB's head from about 8 feet up (the feed-house roof) when I was 4. Good times!
- I remember LB being stung at least half a dozen times when we played in an old truck. I was about 5.
- I remember watching Dad wilk the cows and work the farm, several memories from between age 4-6.
- I remember the day my grandmother died, age 4. The day grandfather died, age 6.
- I remember both time lightening struck the old farm house, ages 4 and 6.
- I remember finding the old (empty) septic tank and digging my way down and into it, almost getting buried. Age 6.
- Remember that time BB and I climber the peach tree? And it broke in half because it was too small? Me neither, wow that grandpa sure spanked hard!
- Many memories of playing in the snow and on the tractors on the farm age 6 and below.

Amusing to me is that my older cousins don't recal anything about the farm years, not even non-farm related stuff. Odd. BB and I are memory-laden types as anyone who's read my overly-detailed life story can vouch for.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger JUnderCovers said...

Oddly, as I was reading this post, your other husband came on the radio singing "The Sweetest Thing"--it figures!

I'm not sure if I know what my EARLIEST memory is. I feel like I remember lots of events from being younger, but it's hard to know how much of that is real memory and how much is from pictures and stuff.

But I do have a very vivid memory from when I was about 5 or 6. It was the middle of the summer, hot as it is in New England. And my mom took me out in the backyard late at night and we sat on the picnice table to look at some meteors or something. I was really into stars and astronomy and stuff then, and I just recall it as the perfect summer night.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger for a different kind of girl said...

Desmond - I agree, I do think it's like finding this tiny nugget of gold when you meet someone who is you can connect with beyond the surface pleasantries. I feel truly blessed that within the last handful of years, really, I feel there have been one or two truly special people placed in my life for a reason.

I had forgotten you were adopted. I imagine remembering something like that, coming into a family, would be a truly special memory to hold onto.

LBP - Good to see you back around the neighborhood, mister. I think, like you said, many of my very early childhood memories are vignettes. Every once in awhile, something or someone I encounter will cause a brief memory flash and I'll assume it was something that I experienced. Because of some interesting family twists, I am essentially missing one half of my family tree. I miss the memories that I could be hearing about or remembering because of that.

FTN - Ah! I didn't mean to scare you! But honestly, I felt a little scared when I *really* thought about this topic and how it's so very feasible that the moments I hope to capture now with my children, the glimpses of life and recollections I want to have of them and us together when I'm old, will not be things they remember. I watch them and that rather saddens me a bit.

Then one of them makes a "poop" comment and I'm pretty much shaken out of my illusions of family perfection...

Finished - I've heard rumor that "Mommy's Gone" is a great little number. I'm sure I've heard something like it, but quite honestly, I can't remember what I'm talking about right now...

2amsomewhere - Nice to see a new commenter, as always. I believe you're right with the Scooby Doo thing. My oldest went thru a big Scooby phase and we watched plenty. However, in season four of "The Brady Bunch," in a three-episode arc titled "Hawaii Bound," Mike (or maybe it was my dad) has to check on the construction of a building that his construction firm is building and it so happens the building is in Hawaii, so he takes the whole family along. However, ancient Hawaiian superstition begins to plague the family when Bobby (or perhaps my sister. I am pretty sure I don't have a memory of a brother)discovers an ancient taboo idol that brings bad luck to those who touch it.

And dude! What if Eric Clapton *really* did come to your house and play with your dad? How bad ass would you have been in school then?!

Nanette - Ah, my friend! I had forgotten about that aspect of your life. I only knew of that on a marginal scale...

Savage - Funny. See, I have the similiar memories fueled by the healing powers of everclear and fruit punch.

Goodbye (for now), Tinman. Oh, don't cry! You'll rust so dreadfully. Here's your oil can.

XI - Wow! You're a veritable memory bank! It seems that most of them contain some degree of bodily injury though...

J - My other husband is so freakin' great! You know that was just for me, right?!

The type of memory you describe is very much in line with the ones I hope my boys remember when they're older.

Friday, June 15, 2007 12:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you truly are a 14 year old boy you should know all about bodily injuries. FTN, that 14 year old girly girl, on the other hand, might not be able to relate.

Besides, mildly traumatic memories are the easiest to remember and certainly make for more interesting stories than tea-parties and Barbies ......


Friday, June 15, 2007 9:53:00 AM  
Blogger Crazy Computer Dad said...

Wow, my earliest memory...Hmmm...I think it was when I was around a year and a half, on the battery in Charleston, SC, with my dad, my mom, and my great grandmother. We were going to Fort Sumter. I remember being very frightened at the fort and being in a stroller. A month or two after that I remember crawling out of my bedroom window to pick blackberries or blue berries. My mom was having gall bladder issues and took some medicine that made her sleepy. I remember seeing something on TV about opening a window and pushing the screen out, so I copied that. :-) The neighbors found me and brought me back home....Surprisingly I remember a lot of my childhood. Mostly I remember being in trouble a lot. :-)

Saturday, June 16, 2007 2:08:00 PM  
Blogger for a different kind of girl said...

XI - You're probably right. I can remember the bodily injury matters on a clearer scale. The odd little indent on my forehead, near my hairline definitely reminds me quite clearly of getting pistol whipped by the neighbor boy and his toy gun, leaving me bruised, bloodied, and out for revenge...

CC Dad - Goodness! You have some very early memories stored in there! Plus, it sounds like you were a bit of a childhood ninja, and I have to admit, the idea of that is rather cool!

Monday, June 18, 2007 1:07:00 AM  

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