I accept the fact that the human brain is an incredible device with a photographic memory, but I have my doubts when people claim they can recall their own births. I’m thinking about this because last night I had a peculiar dream. Actually, it wasn’t really a dream, it was a recollection of a situation that happened when I was six months old. But since I was asleep at the time I guess it technically qualifies as a dream.
I’m a baby in my crib, and it’s unbelievably hot. I’m sweating profusely and wearing only a diaper. Something other than the heat is bothering me. I’m too good natured to cry (Mom will later say that had I been colicky like my older brother we’d still have been a family of three because she’d have killed herself) so I just lay there and play with my toes. (This will be the last time I will be able to get them in my mouth.) Then the bad thing starts happening again.
It’s a hissing sound, one I’d grow up to associate with snakes, but there isn’t a snake in my bed, it’s the fitted sheet beneath me. It’s too small for my mattress, not that I know what sheet and mattress are. All I know is that if I move, the thing under me sticks to my back and the cloth at the corners of my crib pull away from the mattress and slither toward me. I don’t like it one bit.
I remember trying not to move but I’m a baby and babies aren’t good at staying still. Like I said it’s hot and sticky, and now this thing pinned around my middle is soaking with something that doesn’t smell too good. I’m not happy, not happy at all.
This is the dream/memory I relived in my sleep last night. Nothing dramatic, only I know it isn’t a dream. My dad and older brother shrugged it off when I discussed it with them a while back, both admitting it wasn’t anything worth mentioning. I talked to my mother about it recently. “I have a memory that goes back to when I was around six months old,” I said.
She laughed at me. “No you don’t. People can’t remember that far back. Whatever it is you think you remember, it’s just something someone told you, something you forgot and then remembered.”
“But this isn’t anything anyone would have bothered to tell me.” I described the dream to her. To my shock, she was silent for once. It didn’t last. “That is strange,” she finally admitted. “When you were six months old we lived briefly in a place called Airport Village near the old San Jose Airport. We were housed in these metal buildings from the war.”
“Yes, that’s what they were called. All metal, and my…my…my were they hot! I haven’t thought about living there in…in, I can’t remember the last time!”
“What about the sheets?”
“I washed them wrong and they shrank something awful. We didn’t have money to replace them. I tried to make do but couldn’t keep them on your crib. I haven’t thought about those sheets in years either. But I must have mentioned them. I just can’t remember.”
“Mom, do you think you did?”
“Then maybe this is my earliest memory.”
“Why is it always something about you? Has it occurred to you that maybe you’d be more successful if you focused less on yourself? Why don’t you write blogs about me?”
She doesn’t know it, but I do.
Can you remember being born? What is your oldest memory?