Sunday, January 27, 2008

Early, Cloudy Memories


It has been atypically rainy and cloudy for the past week, here in L.A.-la land.
Overcast days always take me back to one of my first memories, of standing up in the crib and looking through the bedroom window. Our tiny one-bedroom house was on a corner and I still remember the grey sky over the grey asphalt of the intersection.
The house that was diagonally across from ours, catty-corner, seemed a great distance away, to my toddler perspective.

Is that an actual memory? Or is it something my mind created and then fastened on to, in the almost-forty years since? When I drive through that old neighborhood, now, the streets and our old house all seem to have shrunk to much smaller proportions.

I take such early memories for granted. I turned three the year that my brother was born. I can still picture and describe the layout of each room in that teensy, first family house. I remember the wooden potty-training chair with the removable plastic bowl, underneath (I got Tootsie Rolls as a reward if I had been a good boy on the potty). I remember clinging to the dishtowel hanging from the refrigerator door handle, and hiding my face in it when the ominous sounds of thunder frightened me.

I remember watching "The Addams Family" and "Hobo Kelly" on television.

So, I am a little surprised when people, such as Domestic Partner, say that they don't remember much about their lives before the age of five. Perhaps any lack of memory is simply suppression--a defense mechanism--a built-in psychological protection for those who had to survive through any kind of emotional or physical trauma at an extremely tender age.

For as non-traumatic as my childhood has basically been, I also wonder if, as children, we don't view things as being so horrible at the time that they happen, simply because we take them for granted. We don't know much about the world beyond our own tiny environments, so we have no basis of comparison. We just accept things as they happen.

That was my experience, anyway. I did not question much as a child, and I simply accepted things as they were, in their seemingly random and haphazard ways.

There are many details from childhood that I do not remember, but have written down. Before puberty, I started keeping regular journals, thanks to the wonderful influence of "Harriet the Spy," and "Henry Reed, Inc."

I merely recorded what had happened during any given day. The bad stuff didn't happen too often, or too severely. But when it did, it got documented. I didn't think too much about it at the time. As a kid, I didn't try to analyze the events, I just felt sad about them.

As an adult, it has been mildly jolting to read over a couple of family spats that I must have forgotten about. Normally, I would be among the first to claim that I have no suppressed memories. But reading over some of the recorded events has been slightly disheartening, enough to put a couple of good nicks in my carefully crafted plastic bubble.

Did some of that stuff really happen? It must have, if I wrote it down. My journals were for writing down the truth, not exaggerating it, and not for making up stuff.

And what about forgiveness? Must we choose to learn it? Do we learn to choose it?

7 comments:

Brenda said...

Be glad you don't hold onto pain...you will likely out live us all

Prince Gomolvilas said...

You know, I've blacked out the first 23 years of my life. Beat that!

golfwidow said...

I know everyone says we must learn forgiveness, but I've found that the people who I'd need to forgive are the sorts who would take such pardons as license to wrong me again.

Tedd and Joanna Szeto said...

We love you...remember THAT.

Quin said...

i remember before i was five..and blanked out most of the rest until i was 16 or so.

it wasn't so pretty.

thankfully, i think the guy who made everything lets us find each other...

that part makes me smile.

Jason Phoon said...

Your memory of what happened before 5 years old is amazing. I barely remember anything, apart from what's in old photos.

Well, now we have online journals, so we never forget :)

Erin said...

the journal you wanted me to read from high school (like 9th or 10th grade?) was a little shocking to me at the time - do you remember? I think it was the one with the dark green cover. I knew then that your life at home was not what it should have been - not what you deserved. Love you, Peter.