I remember my first kiss. I was seven or eight and her name was Sandra. It was a thrill for me because I had a huge crush on her. The kiss was the result of a contest to see which couples could kiss the longest. Sandra and I whipped ass with seven seconds. It was the most magical seven seconds of my life. Not only was it my first kiss, but it was the last I shared with her.
Hey, it was the seventies and I was hot on girls at an early age.
I remember my first open mouth tongue kiss. It was along Minnehaha creek, between the creek and the tennis courts. I was so shocked when she pushed her tongue into my mouth that my eyes flew open. She broke up with me shortly after because she couldn’t go out with a guy who kissed with his eyes open. She never did return the sweat band I wore on my right wrist most of that summer.
My question was, and still his, how did she know my eyes were open?
They were only open for a second, and then I was having the time of my young life.
But these were pleasant memories that were in the later years of my childhood. Most of us remember events like this. My question is…how early into your life do you remember?
The two examples of my first two kisses are very pleasant memories. Even though the girl I was going out with at the time of my first French kiss dumped me the very next day, once I got over the initial shock, it was a nice kiss . And I remember it clearly.
But as I sift through the memories of yesterday’s past, the ones that go back the furthest are not nearly as pleasant. Well most of them, in “Barrel of Monkeys”, I talk about standing in my kindergarten classroom trying to match up the alphabet song with the letters along the alphabet line on the wall. Much to my consternation, I could not find elemeno. Not an unpleasant memory, but that would be around the age of five.
Most of those that predate that memory suck.
I can time these memories based on the fact that the majority took place at my grandparents’ home or cabin. After kindergarten, I spent much less time with them, and the house in Bloomington went away sometime between kindergarten and first grade.
Speaking of first grade. I remember my bitch teacher like it was yesterday. She badgered me about wanting to write with my left hand. Kept tying yarn around my right wrist to remind me which hand was the right one. When I would be working hard on a project, tongue cued up in the corner of my lips she would hiss, “Billy!” and glare at me until I switched hands.
What made matters worse was she had this silver streak in her short spikey haircut. Later in life, when I saw the Bride of Frankenstein, it so reminded me of how my first grade teacher looked. I used to have a class picture, but it’s been lost in a pile of yesterdays.
I cannot help it I am in my right mind.
Now lets go back to days before that first kiss, and the evil teacher with the silver streak.
Here are some random memories that predate kindergarten.
I remember struggling with the concept of tying my shoes. The bunny never found his way back into the hole.
I remember licking my grandpa’s boat on a cold winter day. My grandmother was not too sympathetic when I came into the house crying with a bloody tongue.
I remember my uncles bringing home rabbits they shot down by the river. Everything tastes like chicken. Except the ducks they brought home later that same year.
I remember learning to write my name, and emblazoning the back of my grandma’s orange furniture in the basement with Bill.
I remember the first time I put my own shirt on. It was in my grandmother’s living room. It was probably a turtle neck (god I hate those things). At that time in my life, it seemed as if I was trying to be born, pushing my head through the neck of those nasty long sleeve, long necked shirts. I would get stuck, feel trapped, couldn’t back out, couldn’t go forward, and eventually called out to grandma for help.
Then one day, just as I was about to give up, poof, daylight. I could see the sun rising through my grandma’s plate glass window. It was a magical day, and one more step towards independence.
I remember falling through the ice at my grandpa’s cabin. I think I came close to buying it that cold winter day. It wasn’t the first time I fell through ice. But it was the first time I couldn’t get myself out of the frigid water. I don’t remember being carried up the hill to the cabin. But I do remember getting tucked into my grandparent’s bed, naked, under piles of my grandmother’s homemade quilts. A bunch of hot water bottles joined me as well. Everyone looked and sounded so concerned.
I remember drinking gas in my grandfather’s garage. There spotty memories, flashes, leaps between scenes. The clearest memories from that event are seeing the Mason jar filled with milk. What it actually was, was the jar of gas my grandpa used to wash paint brushes. I remember being in my mom’s arms in the back of my grandparents Chevy racing to the hospital.
Noticing a scar on my hand much later in life pulled me back to another day at my grandparent’s cabin. It took some searching, very deep searching. Grasping first at long faded fragments, pulling them fourth to see what came with. It was a process that took a better part of my life. But I eventually remembered the event that led to the scar that draws a straight line from the top edge of my palm and neatly splits my two middle fingers.
It was a warm summer day at the cabin. A bunch of the cousins were there and we were getting constantly yelled at for letting the screen door slam as were ran in and out of the cabin. The screen door didn’t have much of a screen, because I was trying to keep one of my cousins outside. Hell, it may have been my brother. I was trying to hold the door shut with my hand on top of the bottom frame of the screen door. Whoever was on the other side yanked the door open, and split my hand wide open. I still get an uneasy feeling when the ghost of the memory of long gone pain along with the horror of seeing the deepest innards of my left hand, floats to the surface.
My grandfather fixed that door the very next day.
I remember my mom and some man having an argument. I know this predates the age of five because I lived in a trailer when not at my grandparent’s from the age of four through six. Don’t judge, this was the early seventies. They were all the rage back then.
My mom’s argument with the man was in a house, and it wasn’t my grandparents’ house. The man left, but before he did, she begged him not to. When he did leave she cried, and cried, and cried. I wanted to, tried to comfort her, but didn’t know how.
This last memory is a very old one, I have carried it with me most of my life. Maybe the darkest of them all. I was very young, still sleeping in a crib. My mom was gone; she didn’t come and tuck me in that night. When I crawled out of the crib, I snuck down the hall towards the adult sounds. There was a bunch of men, not really men, boys actually. Knowing what I know now, they were probably my mom’s cousins, recruited to watch me while she went out. The scene was scary to a small boy. One I had not seen before. The air above them was blue with suspended cigarette smoke. They were being loud as they talked over the rock music playing from the radio. Bottles littered the table and cigarette butts filled the ashtrays.
Frightened, I snuck back to my room and crawled back into my crib. I tried to sleep, but the unfamiliar sounds bounced off the hallway walls and came through my door as muffled chaos. My young imagination started to get the better of me. My mommy was there every night before this to tuck me in and say good night. Maybe those foul men around the table did something to her. If I cried, she would come as she always did.
One of the men who I did not know opened my door and told me to shut up. Called me names that were not mine.
I was quiet.
But not for long. I cried again, but this time for a glass of water. “Mommy, please bring me a glass of water. Mommy, I am thirsty.”
The door flew open. An angry man rushed towards my crib and his hand flew out. A full glass of water doused me, shocking me to silence.
“There’s your God damn water you little brat, now shut up!” The man growled at me and shut the door.
I cried, but this time silently.
So based on these memories I have shared and the ones I have not. Before the age of five, those memories we carry with us are probably laced with some sort of pain. Physical or otherwise. I would say the last two memories are likely about three or four. The crib scene may even be closer to two.
As I wrote this, I searched for a pleasant memory that predates the age five barrier, but nothing surfaces.
I have no memories of my father.
What do you remember before your fifth birthday?