The Age of Memory
I’ve recently hounded both my parents to provide their take on an incident in 1981. I was five years old at the time and although I have lasting memories from that age, a clear ‘day-in-the-life’ scenario does not stand out. This mostly concerns an event that my parents participated in and which I was not present, so their feedback is not only helpful but necessary.
My mother has already provided some concise answers and my father who has started answering my questions in a word document feels like he is writing a novel. He should. I can vouch for how rewarding the process is, even without a certain amount of recognition that any writer would crave. But this process of casting thoughts back got me to thinking about my earliest memories. How far back could I go with no real record other than a few ancient Kodaks?
I have been told that some people can remember infancy or close to it. I can’t. It seems surreal that at a time when the brain is only really developing that it can remember a time or a place. What would be more believable to me would be a sensation. Perhaps a person remembering a particularly bright light near their crib that gave off a warm glow or the feel of an old stuffed toy that has stayed in the family and every time it’s well worn coat is touched they are taken back to that time.
The earliest full day I can remember is my fourth birthday. It was significant because I was given the greatest present ever, but it is not just that moment that I can remember. I remember people that were there, interactions and conversations. It is quite clear to me. At one point my uncle Geoff wished me a ‘Happy Birthday’. I had no idea how to respond when someone wished you a happy birthday so I just said ‘Happy Birthday’ right back to him.
The present that I received on that day cost little to nothing. My uncle Brian worked for Datsun at the time and it was a time when the cars were being shipped to New Zealand by the boatload. They were economical, affordable and the Europeans could not really compete with the relatively near Japanese, geographically speaking. What all these cars meant were alot of associated material with the shipping. In Datsun’s case they were often shipped in giant wooden boxes. My uncle had given my parents one of these giant boxes to give to me as a fourth birthday present and it was pretty much the most ingenious present ever. Instantly there was a place for all the kids to hang out for the duration of the party. A place to be away from the tedium of adult encounters. It was a workshop, a clubhouse, a garage for my trike. It was the greatest gift. We held important club meetings there while sipping at our cordial. Those of us more daring than the others could climb on the roof of the case with the aid of an adjacent lemon tree and take in Westmere’s sea of bungalows.
My memories start there.