Memories

Welcome to my shiny new blog.

This blog is a writing exercise. Or, more accurately, a deadline exercise. Several years ago I decided it would be good discipline to start a blog. Even if no one read it, I could pretend people were reading it and that would give me a kick in the pants to actually write. It would provide a deadline. Deadlines motivate me, but we have a difficult relationship. If I’m ever in a position to own a cat, I’m going to get two kittens, name them Deadline and Procrastination, and watch them wrestle. I decided the spring equinox would be a good time to start a blog. The first day of spring. A day associated with beginnings. Come the spring equinox, I rationalized that the winter solstice was equally auspicious. Halfway through the dark. The beginning of a new year. The day after the winter solstice I remembered I was supposed to start a blog. New Year’s Day would suffice. It is cliché, but it works. Then I got distracted by gingerbread, nuts, chocolate truffles, and chocolate oranges. So I am writing this, the first weekly blog post, on the evening of Saturday, December 31st.

The first, hundredth and first, and millionth and first guideline of writing are to write about what you know. Therefore the primary subject of this blog will be myself, that being the subject I am most familiar with. When it is about other things, it will be about how I see those other things. Having set the subject, where to start? It seems logical to start at the beginning, which, if we eschew hearsay, would be my earliest memory.

Many people talk about their earliest memories. Some people claim to remember suckling on the teat. To avoid argument, I’ll just assume they are claiming a remarkably early memory, not a very late weaning. Others claim to remember their first steps or the slap given them by the delivering doctor or midwife. I’m not sure what my earliest memory is. It doesn’t go back as far as others claim.

Everything before 18 or so is patchy. Whether this is due to head injuries (I’ve had a few) or lifestyle (I have one) I don’t know. The few childhood memories I have can be roughly sorted by how old I or other people are in them. Many early memories must be counted out as candidates for earliest memory for various reasons. Some are internally inconsistent. My brother was never the same age as me, so any memory in which we are the same age is out. Some are wholly suspect. I clearly remember being terrified the pirates in the painting were going to leap off their ship and the canvas to kidnap my mother. I even remember it happening once. However, as we never had a painting with pirates, this memory must be attributed to fermented milk or whatnot. Some lack any reference to independent events by which to date them. I remember sliding down the front stairs in a cardboard box and right through the bottom pane of the sidelights to the front door. Much to everyone’s astonishment, I didn’t have a scratch on me. This image exists in complete isolation in my mind. My mother and sister confirm it happened, but they can’t say when.

A side note on sisters: whenever any significant portion of the family are gathered together telling stories of what was, my sisters both protest loudly that my version is not how things happened. Of course not. I’m telling stories. My sisters’ version of events is no more accurate, just more boring. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable. Because of viewpoint and hearpoint, we all see something slightly different and we all hear something slightly different. Even worse, we all run events through very different filters. Gather your family or friends around and all recount your memories of a common experience. They will all be different and none of them will be what actually happened. Not even your version. I make no claim in this blog to objective truth. I will strive for a narrative truth, and I hope to be entertaining.

My first clear, datable, verifiable memory is a vivid image of a pretty girl. She had dark skin, eyes so dark the iris and pupil blended together, and jet black hair in a bob cut with rather severe bangs. She wore a bright red dress in a heavy material (corduroy?), cable stitch white tights, I think a white blouse or at least a white lace collar, and round-toed leather shoes with a strap and a shiny buckle. I cannot remember if the shoes were black or red. We were playing on the floor of the back seat of the car as Mom drove us home. She was my princess and I was rescuing her. I’ve always been a fan of the princess and the dragon schtick. Nowadays I prefer damsels that pitch in a bit more on the rescue. Why should I do the all the work. Mature? Liberated? Lazy? Pick one.

The most remarkable thing about this memory is we were playing around—wrestling—on the back seat floor of a moving vehicle. Was Mom trying to kill us? I doubt it. It was just different times with different sensibilities. Although, I’m sure we got on her nerves sometimes, and she had three other kids. She didn’t really need the fourth. I don’t remember if the car of the time was the Dodge Dart. If it was, it would have made a good dragon. It was big, green, and it made scary noises. The point buried somewhere in all this is that the only time Mom would be driving a little me and a little girl home would be from afternoon kindergarten. Somewhere is a picture of my kindergarten class. In that picture is a pretty little girl with big dark eyes that could be my princess in a different outfit and a slightly different haircut. So my first memory is of when I was in afternoon kindergarten and five years old.

Another thing I remember about kindergarten in more general terms is the despair my teachers and parents felt over my ever learning to tie my own shoes. I just couldn’t get it. My knots kept falling apart. In retrospect, I think it might have had something to do with my handedness. I’m left handed. There was a model shoe in the classroom to practice on, and many adults took great care in reversing how they tied their shoes when they tied mine so I could learn by watching. If they hadn’t bothered and just tied my shoes the way they wanted while facing me, I could have copied them exactly and my knots would be fully reversed, not half reversed as I now suspect they were. Or I could have just been a slow child. (In second grade I had a particularly stupid teacher who taught us all the rhyme, “Remember children, you write with you right hand.” I have scars because of you, you dozy cow. How did you ever get a teaching certificate?)

So there is the first blog entry completed. Will there be fifty two? Will there be a second? I think my best hope of keeping to this project is if I tell Mom about it. What, if anything, is coming up? I suspect girls will feature heavily. This first post featured a girl. Boys are supposed to go through a phase when they realize girls are different and don’t like them. I don’t think I went through that phase. As far as I can remember, I always knew girls were different and thought they were wonderful. I like girls. There will be more stories of girls. I expect I will also touch on mothers and fathers, how people are stupid, statistics, maybe I’ll work in a little Star Trek, and some stories about friends if I can work out which of my friends aren’t reading this.

All in all it should be easier than losing weight. Good luck with that, by the way, and Happy New Year.
–g

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About gordonrhorne

Professional dilettante past my year of grace. View all posts by gordonrhorne

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