Best Day is all about using storytelling to remember your past, solidifying it through writing, and passing it down from generation to generation. Today's post is all about early memories, and the impact memory has on us and the people around us:
Tales From My Grandmother's Place
My family took many vacations to my maternal grandparents’ farm in Northern New York. There had been cows there and I would sneak into the area where the cows had been formerly daily milked. My grandfather had a tractor and once he let me ride with them. The barn was filled with wonder, hay, and that's how I experienced it full of wonder.
There was a huge tree across the road. I told my mom I wanted to have a picnic there. She said, “That tree is so far, far far away, it only looks close;” and you know what she was right. There was a raspberry patch right across the dirt road and a chicken coop too.
In our old time home movies, I saw myself at around 3 years old kicking a ball with my left foot. That's why I call myself left footed and left handed. The farm house was magnificent, a porch on the front and on the back. On the back porch, my grandmother would do the wash in an old fashion wringer washer. You had to feed the clothes through the 2 rolls of wood while cranking them to make them turn. This was fascinating to me.
There was an old outhouse in the back yard. I thought my mom had told me there was a sink hole back there and not to go there, but eventually she said she that didn't say it. In the front yard there was a hazelnut tree also called filbert. These tasty nuts we liked were called junk and my mother just had to sweep them up and take care of them. So they were junk to my mother's family; I guess they never tried one.
There also was a huge bush with a bird's nest in it; mom and baby birds too. They would get pushed out of their nest by their mother and I knew not to touch them, but I couldn't help myself. I went to scoop them up then let them go. They were so cute.
Winter at my grandparent's house was a magical time. I wanted a horse so bad, one of the neighbors had come by and let me ride the horse. I actually made a horse out of snow to ride on.
I was lonely sort of like I imagine my mom was there. When grandma was in a good mood, she invited me into the pantry and gave me a spoonful of molasses. I love molasses till this very day. Another fun part of being there, was sneaking into the attic room. There was a number of old dusty treasures there surrounding an old iron bed. My grandmother made the most beautiful coarse bread and we toasted it in the oven. Also my grandmother told a story about a dog who had ran away and came back with his nose full of porcupine needles.
I always enjoyed being at my grandmothers place.
Some Child Play, Some Play Incidents
When infant, playing was the chance to find free space to do what pleased me the most. Sometimes were repetitive games, sometimes were unique opportunities to wander. At the age of 6 I ventured into the jungle (our back lot of the house), where those tremendous predators dwelled (our dogs Payaso y Azabache), I knew they devoured brutally any human being at will, but I, armed with my deathly magic sword (a broomstick) opted to give those vicious animals a lesson to vindicate all the hardships they had caused to those humans who dared to cross by that risky trail (the corral in which they lived.) Not surprisingly, the poor dogs didn’t want to fight with the landlord’s son and retired to a corner, confused, producing light grunts that were more indicative of surprise than defiance. Even when I incite them to fight they decided to take a nap, frustrating my warlike instincts. Nevertheless, in my mind I close the case as if the two beasts, scared and overwhelmed by my audacious bravery, decided to quit and rest. In this way they kept their lives as a grace granted by me.
On another occasion my adventurous mind decided to have friends to play and socialized with neighborhood kids. Our block where I used to live was small and on the street that ran behind our house lived Marino Rios. Equal in age I used to play with him several times until one day I did the biggest transaction of my life: I traded my new Mickey Mouse clock for a little box full of plastic small cars, trucks and one or two tiny horses. My mother was truly disturbed and I thought, “Oh, those adults do not know how to appreciate the true value of things!!” The fun was over since my mom didn’t liked his way of wheeling and dealing.
Another form to have fun came when our house was summited to a total renovation and I discovered, thanks to my familiarity with the construction workers, that all the front of the main building was previously a very old house and between the wooden floors and the earth existed an empty space three feet high. Of course there was no light and that precisely triggered my craving for adventure and eagerness to explore. So, I began a series of inspections in the dark helped by a flashlight. To enter I had to lift two heavy metal doors, then descend to the basement through a cement stair and enter the underground using a small window. There, in the total darkness, I felt that some strange eyes were fallowing my movements, so I had to be very cautious to look around again and again just to prevent the tragedy of falling in one ambush of the forces of evil. That’s why I always took with me a small crucifix to throw away spirits or any other creature of the nether regions. I crawl under all the rooms, always trying to guess what furniture or what space of the main floor I was experiencing from my subterranean perspective. I never found something important in my search except dust, spider webs, and one or two insects. However, each time that I initiated another inspection my heart was beating and I thought: ”Perhaps this time I will find something, or…. perhaps something is going to find me.”
I think some of my conducts where in the category of “good behavior” since one Christmas I received an Indian bow with several arrows and a silver revolver with a plastic case and in the upper part six blue wood bullets were accommodated in a row. I walked to my mother’s room big mirror and practiced, many, many times, how to draw the pistol as fast as I could just to be prepared for a nasty and bloody encounter.
The few rains that fell in our city allowed us to have extra excitement. In front of our house there was a not so high terrace covered by decorative tiles and when it rained, the water over the surface served as a super sliding spot. One day after after a rain, I took off my shoes and began to slide at high speed over the wet floor. All was ok until my running resulted too fast and ended incapable to stop landing in the garden with my left arm as a shield. One broken bone was the result. After the medical attention of my injuries my father gave me two presents: one basketball so I could take it to school to play and the installation of a punching-bag. The basketball had to wait for my injury recuperation and personal growth since at the beginning even when I used all my strengths the ball didn’t reach the ring. For me it was easy to wait, it was a matter of patience, but in the mean while I ended surrounded always by guys who wanted to play with me, or more properly with the ball. The use of the punching-bag was another thing. The ball was so big that I had to punch it with good strong hits if I wanted to make it touch the upper part of the wood installation. I dedicated some time hitting the ball and later bragged with my classmates my sport accomplishments and how surely I will develop in the future tremendous muscles and boxing skills.
For sure my best toys were all those plastic soldiers that little by little integrated my personal army at my disposition to enter in combat as soon as I gave the order. Some were Mexican infantry soldiers marching gallantly in a fantastic parade. Some of them were mounted on brown horses, others were in combat positions pointing their guns, throwing grenades or firing machine guns. Later I increased my collection with Indians, cowboys, American GIs and a group of English Jerrys. I had also four Second World War tanks, two of them in full fighting capacity and two with no turret at all, two torn boats and some cannons. I didn’t need more than to spend hours playing around the house mostly in those places with little circulation. In my mind I designed a strategy and gave trending orders to be fulfilled unconditionally. The opponent party were the bad ones, of course. They were less powerful and less brave but compensated their weakness with evil tricks sufficient to destroy any adversary. I displaced my figurines through the rooms as if they were moving offensively or defensively. My mother was surprised of my solitary struggle between the good guys and the bad guys and gave me the nick name of the “lonely wolf.” My plastic army had to face different hard combats when playing with Victor, my two years older brother. In one large room that we called the “storeroom” he displayed a row of his soldiers and opposite to him I also disposed my own. We took turns to throw marbles as if they were real bullets. At the end, the victory was for the most aggressive and sharp marble thrower that defeated all the opponents. It was fun.
My list of incidents is too long so I decided to continue in another time. Just want to say one thing I learned from all these trials … now, if Sofia, my granddaughter, speaks alone with her doll, it’s ok…if she doesn’t want to share with me her magic ring I understand …… or if she asks me to play with her dolls I don’t have any problem….I close my eyes and enter into the magic world of make believe.
So this memoir is about first memories and I was inspired by Norman and also Jewel who talked about their first memories in early childhood so here it goes with my earliest memories.
I learned in my child language development class that we have no memories before the time that we can verbalize so that explains why my first memory is from when I was 2. I was the firstborn of 4 children. My parents and I lived in downtown Toronto in what they called a semi-detached house. We shared a front porch with our neighbors, separated by a wooden lattice. My very first fleeting memory is of me and my parents walking down the street. I was in the middle holding their hands and jumping up and swinging every few steps. I felt completely happy and protected.
Another memory from this age is of me joyfully jumping on my bed. A little boy named Ian lived in the attached house. When we were both about 3 he started coming over and finger painting with me.
Also at age 3, I went to preschool which wasn't very common in the early 50's. We sat in a circle and sang songs. The teacher's name was Hannah. She played a piano that was painted blue.
My family moved to a new house when I was about 3 1/2. I had a little brother by then and my mother was pregnant with twins. I remember her lying on the floor and bleeding. She had to have an emergency C-Section and all turned out well. I was so proud of my tiny twin brothers.
My early childhood was carefree and happy. I'm pretty amazed to look back and remember these long ago snippets of my life at age 70.
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Curated by Caitlin Cieri