A number of things have me thinking about stories from my past. First, the earlier post about The Little Red Hen’s cornmeal giveaway. Second, running into the person who encouraged me to write about my grandfather’s 90th birthday party. And finally, a conversation with a co-worker about a guy I knew in college and the song Fire and Rain, by James Taylor. So…
I’ve known people who cannot remember anything before age 10 or so, which just baffles me. I have many clear memories from age 4, and in my earliest memory I’m only 2 1/2. We lived in a trailer park for a short time until just after my brother was born. I remember walking with my mother, holding her hand, feeling so excited because we were going to see my babysitter, Lettuce. I loved Lettuce. I truly thought that was her name – it wasn’t until years later that I realized her name was Gladys. We left the trailer park shortly after that, and my next memory is when we lived in a tiny town called Truman. Our babysitter in Truman was Martha, and I loved her, too. She had a lot of brothers and sisters, and their family was responsible for cleaning the church. I remember “helping” with the other very young kids by sitting on one end of a pew and scooching my butt across the length of the pew. I was dusting.
From Truman we moved to Delbert Meyer’s farm outside of Darlington. This farm had a long driveway, maybe half a mile. We had a barn, and we boarded the Doc’s horse. I don’t remember the Doc, but I remember that horse. It was enormous, and I was a little bit afraid of it. I only ever saw it in the stall – or at least, I only remember it in the stall. Around that time I got a pony of my own, Bobby. My older cousin, Sharon, helped me choose Bobby. We stood outside a ring and watched a couple of ponies trot around inside. She quite bossily informed me that Bobby was the best choice. I listened to her because she was older and she knew what she was talking about. I think she was seven. I was five. That was an eventful year for me – I got a new pony, my grandparents moved, and I broke my collarbone falling out of the back of the car. It wasn’t moving – I just slipped. Never break your collarbone. I slept sitting up in my parents’ bedroom, leaning against the wall by a window for two weeks. I’m sure it put a damper on their lives, too.
Bobby-the-pony (as opposed to “I’m-Bob-the-pony-is-Bobby” my brother) features in several of my five and six year old memories. In one, I was riding him up and down the driveway all by myself, and he suddenly stopped. I kicked him as hard as a six year old could, but he wouldn’t budge. In front of him was a tiny little garter snake, and until it crossed the entire driveway, he wouldn’t go anywhere. Then there’s the time I decided that I was big enough to ride Bobby by myself, so I snapped a lead rope on his halter, grabbed a bridle, and led him to the house. My plan was to take him to my mom so she could put his bridle on for me, but halfway to the house, Bobby realized that he was a whole lot bigger than the little blond girl on the other end of the lead rope. One head toss and he was trotting away, dragging me with him. I forgot to let go of the rope. You know how it looks when you drop a video camera, all swirly and disjointed? That’s what it looks like when a pony knocks you down and runs over you. I don’t remember being frightened, though, and I know that once Mom calmed down, she put his bridle on and I hopped right up on his back.
We lived on Delbert Meyer’s farm when I was in kindergarten, and I remember one icy winter on the way to the babysitter’s house one morning. We had to go up a hill, and my brother and I sat in the backseat of the car, pushing with all of our might on the front seats. We were helping get the car up the hill. Kindergarten also saw my broken collarbone, learning to use right handed scissors because I couldn’t use my left hand (I’m a lefty), my brother killing a baby duckling by accident, and reading. Oh, yeah, I did a lot of reading, even then. I can’t remember ever not being able to read – Mom tells me that she read to me from the day I was born. I feel sorry for people who don’t enjoy reading. In kindergarten, the teachers found out I could read and began propping me up on a stool with the Weekly Reader – a little “newspaper” for children. I’d read aloud to the class, and the teachers would drink coffee. Not long after that, first grade, I believe, my doctor gave me a reading test. He handed me a laminated card – about 4″ x 11″ – with a story on it and numbers at the beginning of each line. He told me to start reading, and mark where I was when he told me to stop. I read, and read, and read… and then asked, “What do I do when I get to the end?” He stuttered a bit, then told me to start over. I don’t know why I was given the reading test, and I especially don’t know why the doctor gave it to me.
So what’s your earliest memory?