Once upon a time, my earliest memory (believe it or not) was of being breastfed. The problem with that memory was that my mother never breastfed me. My stepmother (whom I called “Mom”) finally figured out that what probably happened was that my aunt had probably done it, and I must have thought it was weird, so that’s why it stuck in my memory. Nowadays, I only remember remembering it. Strange how memory works… and sometimes doesn’t work.
When I was 5 or 6 my older sister Diane and I snuck down by the creek near our house, and I watched while she smoked grapevine. She threatened me with physical harm (ok, I may be misremembering that part) against telling Mom and Dad. Guess what I did the moment we got home? Yep. And I lived through it. But I only remember remembering that now.
When I was 14, I witnessed my Dad saving a woman’s life. We were driving his semi truck down a highway in Oklahoma City when he hit the brakes hard. That woke me up out of my bored stupor enough to jump across to his seat and look out the window as he ran across the road and back a hundred feet or so, to where a guy was pointing a handgun at a lady in a car parked at the curb. This all happened within a few seconds - my dad snuck up behind the guy, grabbed his gun, and planted a punch right into his face. The guy fell to the ground, knocked out cold. My dad yelled at the woman to drive away, and she peeled out and took off. My dad tucked the gun under his belt, rolled the guy over against the curb, and trotted back to the truck. He handed the revolver to me, told me to unload it, which I did… as he shifted the truck into gear and drove away… just like the badass Marine he was.
Speaking of violence, I once had a rather significant unwelcome event force me into a desperate but very necessary act. It has really worked to twist me up inside. I have gone for the last 20 years shifting back and forth between remembering it like it had just happened, to thinking it actually didn’t happen, even though it really did. Now that the non-disclosure agreement has expired, maybe I should finally go see a counselor about it.
At this point, my earliest memory that I can honestly recall with clarity is from when I was 13 years old. My dad and I were driving around town, and I was thinking about that breastfeeding memory. No, this isn’t about to get icky - it happened to be shortly after my Mom figured it all out, I found myself thinking about memory, and worrying that my brain would get clogged up with meaningless memories, rather than ones I could hold onto and value. At that moment, a man in a white van turned left in front of us, and waved at my dad. My dad waved back. And now that’s my earliest memory.