Earliest Memories

Rosy's essay on Mothering Day, happily found on Facebook this morning, brought back a conversation I've been having with my daughter about our earliest memories. She is a children's librarian and has several weekly sessions with very small children. Almost all of these children are preschoolers and some are toddlers and a few are crawlers. She does story time, crafts and a music and movement session a few times a week. Most of these kids are from a somewhat impoverished Hispanic community that is going through some economic changes due to new commercial development. Some speak Spanish at home. If you ever watched Breaking Bad you might recognize the place.

Her experience is that the kids have long term memory covering the span of several months or longer but the literature she has researched on the topic says that those memories are lost and that by the time the kids reach pre-teen or teen years they won't remember much, if anything, from the preschool or toddler years. Her experience is that they remember and soak up just about everything. As parents we see this as well.

As we talked, I was amazed at what she did not remember from her early childhood. That trip to Disneyworld was a total waste. Much of her time in daycare with friends her own age and a series of caregivers is lost. A few things she remembers only from seeing photographs.

Apparently there are cultural differences in early memory. Canadian kids remember earlier experiences than do kids in China. Researchers think that there seems to be a parenting factor involved. Parental and cultural priorities make a difference. I wonder if there are generational differences. My generation was the first to grow up with television so I recall some of that.

When we think back to our earliest memory it often turns out to be some innocuous happening that would hardly matter. We also might recall what clothes we were wearing or a specific location or room. In my case it is a summertime visit to a restaurant and I recall what I wore. It might have been the occasion of my third birthday (in August) but I don't recall that specifically. The restaurant had a lot of windows and was very bright. Apart from my parents, I don't recall anyone else that I knew (sorry, bro). Other early memories are pretty sparse and scattered. My last grandmother died before I was five but I have several memories of her.

As a children's librarian, my daughter works hard bringing stories and new experiences into the lives of her kids. She's very good at it and has as many as 30 kids and parents each week. She is fascinated at how they are developing (physically and socially) but seems disappointed that, in the long run, they might not have any lasting memories of their weekly visits. Maybe so...but I can't accept the notion that it isn't having an impact. They will have positive memory snippets of going to the library, maybe have a favorite story or song and possibly recall the hour they spent with the brightly colored parachute marching in a circle. When I was that age we did not have those kinds of experiences.

So think back...what do you remember? Don't lose it.

 

Comments 3

 
Rosy Cole on Monday, 07 March 2016 18:24

Thank you for reading my Mothering Sunday post and for responding here, Ken. It's much appreciated.

At the moment, there seems to be a real hunger for story, ancestral story, folklore, myth and legend. I'd guess it's a backlash against our empty and ephemeral Western culture. The thing is, into those timeless stories, previous generations of children wove their own reality. Apart from their subliminal cultural teaching, these tales create atmosphere that reinforces our memories of everyday life. It's quite clear, too, that adults are equally hooked on them and I dare say they are replacing the Bible to a large extent.

I'm lucky. I have a vivid memory - just as well for an historian! - and have lived with the sensation that now is in contrast to something, some place, I knew before, and will know again.

But where I put my keys is anybody's guess. Though I can always locate a corkscrew! :-)

Thank you for reading my Mothering Sunday post and for responding here, Ken. It's much appreciated. At the moment, there seems to be a real hunger for story, ancestral story, folklore, myth and legend. I'd guess it's a backlash against our empty and ephemeral Western culture. The thing is, into those timeless stories, previous generations of children wove their own reality. Apart from their subliminal cultural teaching, these tales create atmosphere that reinforces our memories of everyday life. It's quite clear, too, that adults are equally hooked on them and I dare say they are replacing the Bible to a large extent. I'm lucky. I have a vivid memory - just as well for an historian! - and have lived with the sensation that [i]now[/i] is in contrast to something, some place, I knew before, and will know again. But where I put my keys is anybody's guess. Though I can always locate a corkscrew! :-)
Ken Hartke on Tuesday, 08 March 2016 01:12

I'm the family historian but not everyone agrees with me. What one remembers and what the sources say are sometimes out of synch. I used to sit and watch my mother and her two sisters argue about their childhood memories....who had the "correct" family stories. They lived into their 80s and each one was convinced, to the end, that they remembered how things really were way back when. The one sister was ten years younger so the two eldest would pounce on her whenever she tried to recall things as she remembered. Being ten years younger, family fortunes had improved and she a totally different point of view...it wasn't wrong, just different.

I'm the family historian but not everyone agrees with me. What one remembers and what the sources say are sometimes out of synch. I used to sit and watch my mother and her two sisters argue about their childhood memories....who had the "correct" family stories. They lived into their 80s and each one was convinced, to the end, that they remembered how things [u]really[/u] were way back when. The one sister was ten years younger so the two eldest would pounce on her whenever she tried to recall things as she remembered. Being ten years younger, family fortunes had improved and she a totally different point of view...it wasn't wrong, just different.
Rosy Cole on Tuesday, 08 March 2016 13:56

That's what happens to history, too! There's an ongoing debate. Not just whether it was written by the victors, but how much is lost and added in the retelling, then and since. Reminds me of your Attention to Detail post :-)

That's what happens to history, too! There's an ongoing debate. Not just whether it was written by the victors, but how much is lost and added in the retelling, then and since. Reminds me of your [i]Attention to Detail[/i] post :-)
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