Day 20: Your earliest memory

Memories fascinate me. They always have. What sticks within people’s minds. What they carry with them.

Equally fascinating is how differently people remember the same event. I was inseparable with two pairs of sisters growing up, and whenever we’re together we inevitably walk down memory in some form or other. A few of us remember something that the others don’t, and even things we all do remember, we remember differently.

Maybe what fascinates me about memories the most is that some of them might not even be real.

A recent study actually suggests that many first memories are actually fictional and based on photographs and family stories.

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the radiator in my grandmother’s next to my grandfather, Pop. The radiator has a blue cushion on top of it and is only big enough for two people. He’s wearing jeans that are splattered with paint, and I’m seated next to him, little as ever at maybe 2 1/2 years old.

Such a cute memory right?

The truth is I don’t know whether or not this memory is real.

Why?

There’s a photograph of me sitting next to Pop on the radiator in a green photo album my mother made for me so that I wouldn’t forget him after he passed away a few months later.

Is it a real memory or did I conjure it based on the photograph? If I close my eyes I can see his paint splattered jeans through my 2 1/2 year old eyes. You may not be able to see the paint on his jeans in the photo, but that still doesn’t mean that it’s a true memory.

Another early memory is from when I was a few months shy of being 3 years old.

My family was on vacation in South Carolina (I had no idea where we were but my parents kindly provided this context) and I learned how to swim in the hotel pool. My dad went somewhere (again, I’ve no idea where), and while he was gone my mom and my brother, Ryan, taught me how to swim underwater and to swim the length of the pool. I was so excited to show my dad what I’d learned while he was gone, and happy that we pulled off the surprise when he came back.

This one I know to be real.

Why?

There are no photographs or home movies as evidence that this took place.

Whether only one of these memories is real or not, both are of me being with my family. That’s good enough for me.