I was driving to a friend’s house tonight to watch the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and NPR was on in the background, and they were talked about Child Amnesia. Which is, as a general species, we have very very few memories of our lives before the age of seven, and even less before the age of 3 or 3 1/2.
The mechanism that drives this “amnesia” is largely not understood. They were talking about how there are two opposing theories out there; the first being that we are actually unable to make such long-term memories, and struggle with memory in general at such a young age…and another theory that we do, in fact, make memories of everything at those ages, and then forget as we get older. I didn’t get to listen to the whole program, but I’d imagine this second theory is along the lines of the theory that our brains do, in fact, remember everything that we’re ever exposed to. Sight, sound, smell, touch…everything, in perfect detail. It’s simply an evolutionary development that we do not recall these memories in such vivid, and distracting, detail. They are there, but we can’t access them.
I don’t know…I mean, there is something to that second theory. There have absolutely been instances of people being able to remember things in incredible detail under certain conditions, that they had “forgotten.” The more rational side of me, however, is much more inclined to believe that the storage of such long-term memories is just part of brain development, and that we don’t remember things before a certain age because there are no longer memories to go back to.
I remember a fair amount of that age. Maybe one or two memories before the age of 3. After that, I remember a fair amount. Like, driving up to Trinidad with my mom every morning she went to work. The daycare there. Being attacked by a hornet’s nest…or narrowly missing an attack, I guess, because the older kids were further ahead, and they were the ones who stepped in it. Our cats, Tuffy and Joelly. Waking up in the mornings when the sun came up, no alarm clock. My Sesame Street sheets, and my bed with the brown drawers underneath it that was set up next to my mom’s bed up in the front room. Seeing Ferris Buehler at the drive in by the bay, before that was shut down (it was always foggy, being right next to the bay. Kinda hard to see drive-in movies with fog in the way). Walking through our little clearing of a field when it still had wild daisies, and the daisies being taller than I was.
Most of those memories must have been between 2 and 4, but a couple of them are earlier. Apparently, when I first learned to talk, I told my mom about what it was like to be born. I also have a memory of crawling the nursery, into the daycare area, and looking up at an adult, towering over me and speaking gibberish that I didn’t understand. I do remember distincly feeling, however, that I was somewhere that I wasn’t suppose to be (in a mischievous kind of way)…that latest one I’ve never been quite sure if it was a real memory or not, just because it seems so improbable. I would have been like 9 months to a year old…but if it was a dream, it was a very vivid one. And, my mom swears that I, unbidden, told her what being born was like…so…I don’t know. I also recognize I’ve always had a very active imagination, so there’s that too 😛
Anywho, that’s what that program made me think of. I remember a lot about those times, if impressions and a slide-show of images count.
Got my work done today, and now I sit exhausted in bed, surprised that I was able to write as much as I just did. Honestly thought this would be one of those “le tired” blog entries, cause papa is tiiiirreeddd. But, in a good way. I was afraid for a hot sec that I was slipping back into cold/flu territory again from having done a full work week after being sick for so long, but nope. Felt totally normal, and still do. And now, I’m “off” for two days. And I put the quotes around that on purpose because this weekend is going to be a busy one, indeed.
But, that’s fodder for future entries. For now, adieu. What childhood memories are the earliest you can remember?
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