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Memory is a funny thing.
I've always had a bit of a temper. Liable to get into a strop at a perceived injustice even before I knew what justice was. Which probably explains my earliest memory. If it is a memory that is.
The ingredients are a window, a cot, a blanket, an enamel pail, a door, my parents and a poo. I'd just performed in my nappy and it was really very pleasant. Satisfying, warm, soft and good to have got rid of. I could see my mother at the bottom of my cot and about to change me only she didn't. My father came in and suddenly she was talking to him. After a while my poo got chilly and a bit wet and nasty to be lying in. I began to cry but nobody paid attention. I cried louder. No response. I got angry and gave it more wellie. Quite a lot more. Why was I having to wait ? She'd been all set to go. My strop gained momentum. All the attention was on my father. What about me ? ME ! ME ! ME ! But I was ignored. How could I be ? Were they deaf ? I was incandescent with rage, roaring like a bull, ready to burst a blood vessel. And that's where the memory ends. If it is a memory that is. Because the cot was around until I was five as was the blanket and the pail. The window no. The window blew in during the Clydebank Blitz. My mother described how she and my father had rushed down to their little cubbyhole under the stairs with their ration books, gas masks and identity cards then realised they'd forgotten the baby. They raced back upstairs to their flat and fortunately got me before any bombs fell. So I knew about the window and I knew my cot had been in front of it.
Years later I told my mother about this memory but it meant nothing. I was always pooing in my nappy and screaming to have it changed. But she admitted it was strange. I had placed the cot correctly. In front of the window but set back from it. And the door was right too. Behind on the left. And the pail. Underneath the cot bottom right. Not things I'd been told.
Children don't remember things before three of four they say. So is this a real memory ? And if so why remember such an ordinary incident ? Or why invent something so mundane. I don't remember my thoughts. They are guesswork. It's the emotion, my rage and the attention focused on me being taken away. That's what's stuck. The injustice of it.
By the time I had other memories the room and the window no longer existed. I was living miles away in the country in a wooden hut. I could walk and talk and didn't roar like a bull any more although I cried from time to time. My anger over injustice was still there but mostly my tears were for skinned knees.

8 comments

M♥rJ Photogr♥phy !!… said:

Beautifully written Jean, strange what we remember from childhood, mostly mundane things ( But of course a messy nappy is far from that ).
I can remember my falling over a large stone to keep the back gate open, only to crash into a brick wall & cut my head open, which required 4 stitches, but the only other thing I remember was my Brother picking me up, nothing else & I was 2 years old, that is my earliest memory. Sadly my Bother died a few weeks ago & will be off to the funeral soon today....
Thank you for the well wishes Jean, & hope your recovery is still going well !!!
23 months ago

HappySnapper said:

So well put together Jean, would agree 1st memories are around three or four years. I also think toilet misfortunes feature a lot as first memories in children, mine was peeing on an attic floor and dripping through a ceiling in a foster home and my second memory was a lie denying it was me (As if). I am always interested in early life thoughts so do you have a memory of something that may have influenced you the most through all the years.
23 months ago

tiabunna said:

An interesting article, guaranteed to get most of us thinking, Jean. I couldn't date my earliest memories, the first I can pin down definitively was when I would have been about three and a half.
22 months ago

Colin Ashcroft said:

I enjoyed reading your article. I find one of the problems with getting older and the fact that I still see my very elderly mother (92 tomorrow) every day is that I am unsure of what are my earliest memories are. Are my memories mine or are they just what I have been told (again and again!) by she who remembers everything.

My earliest memory ( that I am sure is my own) is pre school but I was probably about 4 years old and it was an adventure to the end of the street across a road and down a hill to a stream - it is quite vivid and I was on my own. Mum doubts this story as she would never have let me out of sight for so long to be able to do this :-)
19 months ago

Jean replied to Colin Ashcroft:

I know what you mean about what you've been told. Sometimes it is difficult to tell what you are truly remembering. This memory has always puzzled me because it is so ordinary. It's not a story of any interest. I think It's a real memory because of the intensity of my rage. Many of my early memories feature rage mostly when I felt things were unjust. One of my friends daughters was much the same when she was young.
19 months ago

MaggsMep said:

I remember being in my pram and a strange boy suddenly peering in at me - scared me half to death, he seemed so huge!
15 months ago

Dinesh said:

You might be wrong, but you are not alone. None of us capture our memories in perfect, strobe-like detail, but almost all of us believe in them with blinding conviction. This conviction is most pronounced with respect of flashbulb memories, but it isn’t limited to them. Even with trivial matters, we believe in our recollections with touching sincerity and defend them with astounding tenacity. …….

How can we square this feeling of rightness with the very real possibility that we are wrong? This is a question that haunts all the ‘wrongology,’ not just errors of memory. The problem is suggested by the very phase “the feeling of knowing.” In life, as in language, we begin with a psychological state (the “feeling” part) and end up with a claim about the truth (the “knowing” part). In other words, we feel that we are right because we feel that we are right: we take our own certainty as an indicator of accuracy. This isn’t completely foolish to us, since studies show that there is some correlation between confidence and correctness. But it isn’t completely foolproof, either. As the case of flashbulb memories makes clear, our certainty reflects the existence of a particularly inner picture. But nothing in life guarantees that this picture reflects the real state of affairs. ~”Being Wrong” ~ Cathy Shultz

www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong#t-121484
10 months ago

Doug Shepherd said:

A fascinating article Jean, and so well written. My first memory is from when I was on a train with my mother on our way to what was then West Germany. The year would have been 1954/5 so I was about 2/3 years old. It was dark when we arrived at one of the ferry ports on the south coast, I am unable to say which one. Through the window I remember seeing a large white ship with red crosses on the side beautifully illuminated by floodlights. I presume it was a hospital ship and certainly a sight I have never ever forgotten. Was it real? Certainly to me it is still, although my mother did not remember the ship but did confirm the journey.
3 months ago