Early Memories

I know an early memory I’ve had. Again, it’s another one of those things that I’ve never forgot. It’s just a single image, a picture, and I’m not sure it’s even true. It might not even be real. It might be something our mind made up as a result of hearing about this thing.

In my mind it takes place in a trailer, but my mom says that can’t be so. They didn’t live in a trailer back then, and I know that is real. My brother lived in a trailer for some time, so perhaps we’re mixing in another memory with his. A tale of two tales being told, in another measure . . . a mixing of memory and things being told.

In this one we are a baby. Or rather “I” am a baby; I am bright and I am aware. I am sitting in the kitchen sink; the room is otherwise dark. There is light coming from the other end of the room. Perhaps it is my father and my brother sitting there – no, Rich is laying across the floor; dad is looking on; the TV is on; there is something moving to my right; it is my mother.

And then that’s it. Nothing else. Just a smiling happy baby in a normal family scene: the mother perhaps washing her baby in the sink; baby is just learning he can sit up and ‘things’ – perhaps feel? Perhaps becoming aware of his own emotions, and the emotions in the room? Or simply thrilled with sitting up, observing the world. That, the last – I’m thinking that was it. The ability to sit up and observe the room – without being observed or noticed somewhat (nobody is looking; perhaps there is a hand along my back, but I feel none) – and feeling the atmosphere there. Feeling giggly and warm and happy and naked in the sink.

It was a good one. It might have even come before That Dream.

Then there’s another one; and this again from my early childhood . . .

Mom is nervous about something; the plane is coming down. The passengers are restlessly shifting all about. She plays with me with my puppets – asking me before she drags them out of her handbag or something – “which ones do you want to play with?”. And she holds them in front of me: two of my favorite ones: Alley the Alligator and Leo the Lion, both of them Steiff toys – bought in Germany – which means when I was one year old. That was when the plane came in; we were coming in from over Europe . . . Cold War East Germany left not far behind, where . . .

What I Was Told:

My mom says I was born dying in a German hospital. Bronchial infection. I don’t know. I do know you can’t get a bronchial infection inside the womb. That kind of thing comes from outside. Perhaps some of those German nurses (WWII was only fourteen years ago, and they were defeated, their country literally burned and destroyed) – decided this American child, this one from some foreign invaders, needed some fresh air. A little revenge, in other words.  And then there’s that thing about me disappearing while I was there.  I was there for thirty days. The Germans are not famous for misplacing something; they are a methodical crew – and they know when something gets gone. So there’s something suspicious in that, something I don’t know in the story.

I’ve read that those early days and weeks are important towards bonding; that they also assist in a child’s development later on; that a lack of being able to bond during those first few months is critical.  That it affects the brain’s development in some ways.  Makes it harder for that person to ‘bond’ and make friends later on.

I know that my father, disappointed his son wasn’t a girl, refused to hold me – have anything to do with me – for the first six weeks or so.  I know because this is something my momma told me many a time.  That might lead to some bonding issues as well.

I do know I was raised by a German nanny for some time – a long time, I suspect – meaning during that first year. Not all the time, of course! My father was there; my brother had come along – my mom took care of me. But my first word was “Nein!”, the German word meaning “no”. Not ‘momma’ or ‘poppa’ or any of those ‘first words’ parents hope their children learn. No, like most, I came along knowing the word “no” – in German no less – before I knew any other thing.

And I’ll tell you something about that – and something about my hands (that I am suspecting). A child learns the word ‘no’ (whether it is in German or not!) by hearing the thing. And then being punished for disobedience. And the Germans aren’t very disobedient people (as history has shown) – they teach their children on their behalf that they’ve got to behave! Achtung! And things like that. And back then they weren’t above being harsh with their children. And I wonder about my hands.

My mom says my nerves were slow growing in them. Perhaps that was true. Perhaps it was some other thing – like getting them slapped too hard and too often. I learned not to “feel” things in my hand. Things like pain and ‘stuff’ – what’s going on. Somehow I get the weird feeling in some senses that was too true – getting slapped around a bit. Both by this German ‘nurse’ and perhaps my mom. Perhaps that’s why later I was able to lay my hands on a burner – cooking them until my mom, smelling burning meat, would rush into the kitchen. An inability to feel pain . . . natural or learned, either way – it’s often been a desired thing. Especially when it comes to emotional pain. That one’s the worst, it always is. That’s the one that won’t go away sometimes. So we bottle it up sometimes. LOL, I should take to selling it, I have so many bottles of pain. Just keep on choking them down, that’s what I do sometimes – choke them down with my own spit.

My dad has a picture. Such a clever child! It’s one of a boy – a really small boy, one or two years old, blonde hair – hovering by a chess board, a chess piece in his mouth. According to my father he’d been told not to touch the pieces – smacking my hands when he did. So then he began picking them up with his mouth – simply obeying instructions. Clever kid. And knowing my dad – he probably just laughed and took our picture. I don’t think we got punished for that.

“Stuff a rag in it.” We all know what that means. That means you take an old washrag and stuff it down the mouth of the child, shutting it up (for all time . . . the thought goes through my head, as if it was something she was wishing when she’d do it). Not that I remember this thing. I just remember when she did it with our own daughter. Thank god we stopped her in time. I remember everyone sitting around the table was horrified – couldn’t believe she was actually doing it – before someone stepped in. Cruel thing, that one. And I have no doubt she did that to us. God knows how many times she might have ‘killed’ us; and us beleiving we were dying.  And I’m sure my brother got it, too.

There are others but that’s enough for now. My back aches and I am tired.

It has been a good day, in other words.

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