My earliest memories are quite surprising
in a way. It is commonly held that people don’t have memories before the age of
three or so – but I don’t believe that. My experience and that of my children,
suggest that much earlier memories are possible, for some people.
One of my earliest memories places me in a baby’s
cot. I don’t know how old I was exactly, but I can deduce from the limitations
on my movement that it was very early – certainly in the first few months of
life. I remember lying down staring up into the air above my cot – and waiting,
in expectation. I was waiting for the dust motes in the air, to appear again. I
knew that if a shaft of light crossed above my cot, in just the right way, then
little tiny things would become visible in the air. Of course, I didn’t know
what they were – but I could see them, at such times. Whenever I saw them, I
would reach up to them, to try to catch them, between my finger and thumb.
Looking back, now, on this early memory, I
am struck by the coordination I displayed: I really was able to control my hand
and target these dust motes, with the pincer movement of my finger and thumb. I
am also struck by something else. I recall, very clearly, thinking that I knew
when the light would return (the next day, at the worst) and the dust motes would be visible again. I had an
understanding of the passage of time, and knew something of the cyclical nature
of the pattern of light. I also recall having memories, then, of earlier times
on which I had seen the dust motes. So, I had a definite “memory line” into the
past, even in my first few months – and I had conscious access to it.
There is something else clear about this
memory. I was alone, in that cot, in that room, for what seemed like long
periods, for me. I didn’t cry or complain – or cannot recall doing so, whilst I
waited for the dust motes, so I assume that my parents thought me content and
left me to myself, in those periods. The texture of my thoughts, then, is still
clear to me now. I recall being very alert indeed, studying the tiniest nuance
in my environment. I believe I was looking for changes – and the only things
changing were the pattern of light and the dust motes – other than that, the
room was static. My thoughts don’t seem childish in recall. They seem very
focussed and attentive – and, what is more, analytical. I was analyzing my
environment and trying to discover ways it could be interacted with and manipulated
– yet all I was moving, was my hands.
So, on that early occasion, I was already
conscious of my past, conscious of the passage of time and the cyclical nature
of day and night, able to reflect on my memories and compare them with the
present, able to coordinate my hands, precisely – and able to analyze my
environment. I was also aware of my self, as a being, in that situation,
reflecting on my world. This is not how we are told to see little children.
Yet, that is how I remember my thoughts at the time.
I have other early memories, too – but I
shall think carefully before describing them, here. I thought it best to put
this one on record, in case I never get around to recording my early memories,
just to leave an account of how I was thinking at this early stage.
I wonder: what you are your early memories?
Please leave tales of your early thoughts and feelings, below.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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Labels: a memory for old age, clarity of thought, consciousness, development of the self, earliest memories, early childhood, early thoughts, know thyself, retentive memory, self-awareness, self-perception