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My Earliest Memory

June 11, 2002

My only sibling was born when I was three and a half, which I’d think would be memorable given how much my world changed as a result of my brother’s arrival, but my brain stores no images of that time. I don’t remember my mom being pregnant; I don’t remember where I stayed when she and my dad went to the hospital for the birth; I don’t remember him coming home for the first time. Maybe I was just too young, or maybe I’m blocking it out for some reason. Perhaps if we had photos of any of those events, I’d at least think I remembered, but either there weren’t any pictures taken or they were lost in the chaos along the way.

The earliest thing I can remember without the prompt of square black and white photo doesn’t involve my brother at all, or my parents, except indirectly. It happened when I was in preschool, and it was late spring or early summer, so I that would make me recently-turned-five years old. Usually, my mom dropped me off and picked me up at preschool, but on this day, I was supposed to ride the little bus home. I forgot about this change in routine, though, and was sitting on the steps waiting long after the little bus had left. A teacher arranged for me to get a ride with another little girl and told me my mom would pick me up at her house later in the day. So off I went. The memorable part is what we did while I was there, which was pick all the dandelions in the backyard before her dad mowed it, so the pretty little flowers wouldn’t get cut down (that we were picking them, with the same result to the plant, didn’t seem to occur to us). The image that sticks with me is the kitchen counter covered with little paper Dixie cups filled with water and yellow flowers, four or five or six stems to each cup. The feeling that sticks with me is the amazement that it was okay to do that, that we’d asked and the mom said fine, and the dad said fine, and we got to use up all those cups and take up all that space and no one yelled about the mess. My parents weren’t ogres, but there’s no way my dad would wait to mow the lawn until I picked all the dandelions, much less let me waste a whole box of Dixie cups on weeds.

This memory has a lot of missing pieces. Surely we did something other than pick dandelions that afternoon, but I can’t remember any of it. The movie in my head skips right from sitting on the steps of the preschool wondering where my mom was to picking the dandelions and putting them in the cups. I wonder what else went on that day. I also wonder why the teacher or some other adult wasn’t put in charge of getting me on the bus. Doesn’t that seem like too important a detail to leave to a little kid? Sure, I was well-behaved and responsible for my age, but I was only five; surely it doesn’t make sense to trust a five year old to remember something for a whole half a day, especially with the distractions of play time and snack time and all the other kids. Or am I being too easy on my younger self?

As I do with many tough questions, I turned to the experts at The Usual Suspects. As of this writing, the overwhelming majority of people who chose to vote support my position that I, as a little kid, should not have been expected to remember that Mom was not going to show up that day, which I’m choosing to interpret as validation. So, I get to feel justified that the day should not have gone down the way it did at the same time as I cherish my happy memory of dandelions in Dixie cups.


I’m sure you’ll want to see how other people involved in the June Journal SMACKdown answered today’s question.

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