My first memory is not a pleasant one.
After digging in the back folders of my brain, I can say that I know what my first memory is.
I wasn’t much older than four years old. The same age that my daughter currently is.
Which worries me.
She is already blessed with a tremendous memory. Her recall is out of this world. Like Total Recall. Get it? Out of this world? OK, moving on …
She will ask us if we remember certain things, and her provocation will allow us to remember. But, we may have already forgotten it.
Little items like the color of the walls in a restaurant. Or a person she played with at a park six months prior. Or, maybe, some piece of a conversation she had with us weeks ago.
I have relied on my own good memory a lot in my life (I was a damned good player at the child’s board game “Memory”) but sometimes I cannot keep up with my daughter’s memory.
An easy explanation of why my memory fades is that time-honored tradition of … drinking. And age. Yes, age. Of course. Not the drinking. OK, maybe a little bit of it is some drinking.
But this is something I’ve thought about a lot recently as her memory continues to amaze me.
How is she able to recall things so crisply?
My feeling – and this is without reading any medical journals or consulting with a pediatric psychologist – is that she is able to recall things easier than me because:
- She only has four years of memories. I have 37 years worth.
- The things that are important to her aren’t as important to me. (Example: I want her to stop wearing a Pull-Up when she sleeps and have offered all kinds of incentives. She doesn’t seem to care about it.)
- Her world is a lot smaller than mine, so her concerns aren’t as large.
It’s the third one that I think holds the most weight. At four years old, she is worried about coloring. I am concerned about the particulars of my job, my house, my family, finances, and so on.
These things strip you of your memory because there’s only so much your brain can handle and each new thing that enters it is competing for recall space with other things. (Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was always a Battle Royale, octagon, Royal Rumble sort of thing happening in your brain and some things just “lost.” Like the Hunger Games – they just lost and died to something stronger. So some major, ‘roided-out neuron that held the memory of, let’s say, how to tie your shoes always won over things like how to type on a computer. You’d have no memory of what to do to function in your life or your job and you’d have to re-learn it every day, but you could tie your shoes like a boss!)
And as I think about my daughter’s incredible memory, I begin to think about what her first memory will be as she ages. Will it be a trip to the zoo? Swinging in the park? Moving to Seattle?
It could even be something disastrous, like me yelling at her not to poop on herself (true), or some kid at school calling her “stupid” (true) or something ridiculous like the dogs barking at the doorbell (true). Wouldn’t that suck to have that be your first memory?
It’s also an odd thing to think about when describing someone’s first memory. I’d have to think that around four years old is when most people say their first memory was burned into their brain, so essentially for over three full years, you’ve been treating this human being to all kinds of things and spending all kinds of money on them … and for what?! They aren’t going to remember it! Ever! Ugh.
I just hope that sometimes I think I suck as a dad (true), even though deep down I know I’m a pretty awesome dad (true), that my daughter’s first memory is something cool. Unlike mine from when my mom and dad were fighting right after their divorce.
I was sitting with my sister on a small windowsill in the hallway outside my dad’s new apartment after he moved out and him and my mom were really arguing. The door was open so I could see them and for some reason my dad grabbed my 5-foot-2 mom by the shoulders (to calm her down? to shake her? to provide a soothing massage?) and she kicked the s*** out of his left shin.
She then walked towards us and told my sister and I it was time to go. And we left.
Ahh, the memories.
So, basically for the next year or so, I am not going anywhere near my wife’s shoulders so that her foot doesn’t go anywhere near my shin and burn that into my child’s brain forever.