November 13, 2002

Early Memory

There are things I think I remember, but only because they have been retold to me, told about me as a very small child, over and over, many times by my mother. Things that happened in my life before I even knew I had one; before I knew there was a me and a now.

Like the time I circumvented the laws of the family (don't get in the sprinkler, it will get your clothes wet) by simply removing all of them and frolicking in the front yard in five o-clock traffic, in the clothes I was born in. I was old enough to know wrong by then, old enough to reason my way around it; maybe old enough to have a true memory of it. I don't know for sure. I claim it as a memory anyway.

There is a more distant infant 'memory' I have been thinking about this morning for reasons I cannot say. And if not a memory, it is still may be a metaphor that persists into the life around me. Like many if not most 'thoughts' this memory of a memory has come into my head unbidden, but not perhaps without reason, not without a place in the context of my half-century old mental landscape.

It is trivial, but it has come to mind, and that alone warrants a ticker-marquee for a moment's attention; and so I shall attend. But only as an exercise. If it wanders back into the weeds and thickets where it came from and leaves nothing in this morning's ramble, that is good, that is okay.

Do you remember flash bulbs? Not the tiny eraser-sized ones that came along just before built-in flashes. I mean the big ones, fat and round, the size of pingpong balls and full of frizzled metal fuzz. They turned lumpy and volcanic after their one great flash, and the photographer ejected them from behind the flashpan, kerplunk onto the ground, more often than not. Yep. I'm that old. And so is this told-memory about the baby-me and the flash bulb.

I know I was the subject of at least a few Kodak moments back in the late 40's because the yellowed images still persist in the bottom of a box, in the hall closet in the house we lived in when I was in high school. They are not there now, but remain just so in memory, and that is good enough for me. The pictures show the early Freddie, fat cheeked, with what hair I had slicked over to the side. I'm dressed doll-fashion in a white shirt, white shorts and thick-soled white shoes, striking an Olin Mills pose.

I am told that I remember this: I am sitting for my first flash picture, or else I have been photographed before but at this particular time I had reached a certain benchmark of semi-awareness, and could also talk just a bit at this moment in time. FLASH! goes the bulky brown camera. I reached out to grasp what I could see before me...a brilliant blazing white orb that stayed in my vision wherever I turned my head. My chubby fingers clutched to hold it, and I said "BALL! BALL!" And everybody laughed.

So: that is the memory. I think I will just let it rest here for a while; or for good. Now, I need to get out into the real world, the world outside my own imaginings, into the realm of solid objects, of gravity and substance. Later I'll ponder if there is any reason to the visions that persist in my rememberings, in my mind's eye for a day or for a half-century. Now, I'm going to make a fire in the woodstove, and then go rake leaves in the wind.

Posted by fred1st at November 13, 2002 08:31 AM

Marvelous memory! The flashbulbs I remember are the large bulky square ones that one used to mount on top of the camera. Flashcubes, in fact, I think they were called. My very first (and long-coveted) camera used those kind of flashbulbs. They made these thrilling tiny blue explosions, like an imploding crystal, and afterwards were dull and frizzled inside. Thank you for sharing your memory, and while doing so, for bringing back my flashcubes to me.

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at November 13, 2002 12:37 PM

I have a memory of saying "hamburger", for the first time, obviously, while sitting in a white wooden high chair at my grandparents' house. Despite the fact that I got most of the details correct, my mother insists that I was too young to remember that, and have reconstructed it from her accounts of the story.

Posted by: bigwig at November 13, 2002 10:21 PM

I used to play with the "MagiCubes", you could trip the suckers with a paper clip and flash your friends at school...

Posted by: Dave W. at November 14, 2002 12:59 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?