I don’t remember a lot from when I was really young, say under the age of 5 or 6. I don’t think I really ever have. I have a few memories and one of my fondest is going to preschool with my mother. We only had one car and my mother didn’t have a driver’s license, so the only way to get me to preschool was to walk. I attended a preschool that was at the local high school – my mother would walk me over in the afternoon and my sister and her boyfriend (now husband) would bring me home at the end of the day. My sister was part of the early childhood program so she was right next door. I don’t remember much about preschool other than taking a nap and having graham crackers for snack. I do remember walking there with my mom.
We walked every day until it got too cold; that’s when I stopped attending. My fond memory is of the two of us walking through town in the fall. The high school was about a 15-20 minute walk away from our house, which is quite a distance for a five or six year old to walk. I used to walk it in high school and it was long. I don’t remember the entire trip, just the middle when we crossed out of our neighborhood into the center of town. The air was cool but not cold, the trees were orange and brown and yellow, and the wind was blowing the leaves around. I was holding my mother’s hand as we walked past the black wrought iron fence that surrounded the bank. I remember that fence specifically because I saw it every day for much of my childhood. It always reminded me of this walk.
Unfortunately that is about all of the walk that I can remember, the fence, the leaves, my mother’s hand. I don’t remember getting to the center of town. I don’t remember crossing the railroad tracks. I don’t remember arriving at preschool. I just remember the fence and the center of town and that’s enough. Every time I think of it I can feel it. The wind, the leaves, my mom, our time together. It is a nice memory.
I’ve been thinking about memories a lot lately, specifically how much I don’t remember. I don’t remember what I was like when I was that young. What I was into. What I enjoyed, what I disliked. Who I knew. What I did on a daily basis. What kinds of toys I had. It makes me feel like I could have been an entirely different person and don’t even know it. I think about this in the context of the boys. They are so young but have changed so much and seem so advanced. They have likes and dislikes, favorite things, they are happy and sad, they get excited. They understand routines – they know that the dogs have to go in their kennel before we leave for work in the morning. They know that going upstairs at night means bedtime. They have these personalities, but will they remember?
It’s almost as if they could have completely different personalities by the time that they are around 5 or 6 because they can’t remember how they were before. I feel as though my personality is defined by my past which means it only includes the things that I can remember. I can’t remember every day of my kindergarten age, but I can remember enough to understand the big events that shaped who I am. Prior to that I have no idea. Does that mean that events didn’t shape me? No, but it’s weird to think that I’ve been shaped by things I can’t recall.
I’m sure that the boys will be shaped by the things that happen now but I don’t expect them to recall them. They won’t remember our trip to Texas or how much they loved rakes this fall or what they were for Halloween. Sally and I will, and we will have pictures and stories to tell them, but it won’t be their own memory. I mean it’s not as if they don’t remember things from day to day – they do, but I don’t think they will be able to store those memories in such a way that they could retrieve them in the normal way later on. That is probably why things like hypnosis work to unlock memories– because they access them differently than normal. I don’t think a child has the right context at their age to store memories in a way that will match how they remember things later on. I feel like we generally access memories through word associations, visual associations, and feelings, but the boys are just starting to develop all of those so they may not be able to remember this time later.
It’s just odd to think about: not remembering a part of your life. It’s even more weird to think that I will remember and I’ll tell them about it as if it were a story about someone else.