I find myself looking deep into my past, searching for my earliest memories.
The first would be when my younger brother Dave was brought home from the hospital. I would have been three. In the hazy depths I recall seeing the front door open and Mom walking in holding my brother, a big smile on her face. I don’t remember my emotions, maybe curiosity and gladness to see Mom home.
Another hazy memory is of Cousin Mark getting hurt while playing outside and Mom tending to him with us boys all watching. Mark wasn’t very old, maybe 10, so I would have been about five. I think his knee was skinned so Mom got out the Merthiolate, a red colored medicine that helped prevent infection but burned like crazy when you put it on the wound. We all gathered around Mark and as soon as Mom put the medicine on, she said, “Blow!” And we all did to quickly dry the medicine and ease the pain.
The picture is of my siblings and I with our Grandma Margaret and cousin Mark. Mark is on the front row on the left. I am sitting on my sister Cindy’s lap.
I remember Mom washing clothes. Back then we didn’t have a dryer, so clothes got hung up outside. Mom would take the dried clothes off the line and bring them inside in a big basket. I remember lying next to the clothes smelling them, sun dried and fresh. I wasn’t in school yet so I was probably four years old. Mom would walk in, and I would put clothes on top of myself and hide. She always found me and scolded me for playing with the clean clothes.
I see our old white beagle, Chiggar. He was always calm and friendly. I would sit on our concrete porch with Chiggar on warm spring mornings and pet him. His dark, gentle eyes would look up at me in total trust. My grief was deep when Mom told us her and Dad had accidentally run over Chiggar, who liked to sleep under the truck.
I see us pile in the back of the truck to get groceries. Back then at the age of four or five, I loved Honeycomb cereal the best and Mr. Pibb to drink. Occasionally Mom would also get my favorite ice cream, Marble Fudge.
Many Saturdays Mom and Dad would get groceries while us boys stayed home and watched Saturday morning cartoons. The Bugs Bunny Show was my favorite, along with The Pink Panther Show, Johnny Quest and The Jetsons. I also remember The Land of the Lost and Shazam! as my favorite non cartoon Saturday morning shows. My older siblings liked American Bandstand. Saturday mornings were special because my older brothers and sister were home from school before I joined them in 1970, and it was fun to have all five of us gathered around the television laughing and eating our morning cereal. For me, it was Honeycomb.
I remember evenings gathered around the television. Sometimes Mom made us popcorn, the kind you made over the stove moving the pan briskly back and forth while the popcorn heated in the oil. Sometimes Mom made us fudge or tapioca pudding. In the spring, when our strawberries were ripe, she would bake pie crust to go with crushed strawberries mixed with sugar. While watching shows in the evening like Gunsmoke or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Dad would lie on the couch, sometimes Mom lying with him. Us boys would sit or lay on our bellies with our face propped on our hands, elbows bracing the carpeted floor. I remember feeling safe and joyful those evenings.
I remember going to summer league baseball games at Mang Field. I remember playing Tee-Ball and the smell of my baseball pants, freshly washed and air-dried. I remember having to run in from the infield because my nose suddenly started bleeding, which happened often back then. I can also still hear the sound of my bat hitting the ball off the tee and hearing Dad yell, “Run!”. Occasionally after ballgames Dad would take us by Dairy Queen, where I always got a Mr. Misty.
Many of my earliest memories have faded away. I try at times to locate them, but to no avail. However, the patchwork of memories that remain form a story of a simple life filled with love and consistency. My parents were not much for words, but their lives and actions spoke of commitment and care that have woven deep into the person I am today.
What are your earliest memories? What do those memories say about the person you were, and are today?