Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Earliest Memories

Well, enough of trying to please the new readers. Back to the same old crap you've come to expect. If they want to stick around, they'll have to get used to it.

Here’s something interesting to think about: What is your earliest memory?

I’ll give you a couple of mine. One occurred in real-life, while the other was a nightmare. The real-life story is somewhat fuzzy, but the nightmare is still sharply focused. I'll give you the nightmare first.

In the dream, I’m sitting on the couch with my parents. We're watching our TV, which was a big old Admiral from the late 50’s. It was pretty much the set pictured in the ad above, except our set had knobs. I don't know how you change the channels on the one in the picture.

(Short digression: I can still recall, with crystal clarity, the feel and sound of the knobs on that Admiral. There was a distinctive "ker-chunk" sound when changing channels. It was solid and somehow very reassuring. You knew a sound like that wasn’t going to bring you ephemeral programming.

That TV was my buddy when I was a kid. I had real friends, of course, so this isn’t background for a story about some sad little lonely kid, but TV was utterly non-judgmental, whereas some of my real friends called me names and made me cry. OK, maybe this is good background for a story about some sad little lonely kid.

Anyway, after my folks bought another television set sometime in the late 60's, the Admiral was relegated to the cellar. It sat there for years, somehow still a comforting presence even though it didn’t work. It probably could have been resurrected via a simple tube replacement of some sort, but I don’t know enough about electronics to say for sure. However, when MY WIFE and I moved to Watertown in 1994, the Admiral was left behind. I've always imagined that it was a horrible mistake leaving it behind. Whoever occupied our home next probably found it sitting in the cellar and sold it for about 10 gazillion dollars to some collector of rare antique television sets. If I could have done that, you wouldn't have to be sitting through this.

OK, it was long a digression. My apologies.)

So, there I am on the couch with my folks and a show comes on the TV. It is a show about a big angry giant. This giant is coming towards us and I’m getting scared. I get up off the couch and try to change the channel, but the angry giant is on every channel. I flip the knob more quickly, but it’s no use. The Giant is still coming towards us. He’s just about to come out of the TV into our living room when I wake up.

(I’m sure there’s something in there for a psychiatrist to gnaw on, but I gave up thinking about any deeper meaning long ago. If you want to try and figure it out, that's your problem.)

The real-life memory is of a fellow named Bert Green. He was a friend of the family, most especially my Dad. They grew up together, were in the navy at the same time, both did some boxing – Bert was heavyweight champion of his fleet - and were very good friends until Bert died. I have nothing but good memories of him. He was "Uncle Bert", the only person outside of blood family that I ever gave a family title of respect.

Uncle Bert was a big, strapping guy. I don’t actually have any photos of Uncle Bert, I’m sad to say, but I can show you what he looked like. He was, facially, a perfect twin of the actor Claude Akins. The first time my Dad and I saw Claude Akins on TV, we were spooked by the resemblance. He was an exact match.

They were similar in size, too; height, anyway. However, long before weightlifting and bodybuilding became more common pursuits, Uncle Bert did both. I’ll give you an idea of how muscular he was. Uncle Bert had a tattoo. He had gone into a tattoo parlor, looked through the sample drawings, and chosen the one he wanted. Problem was, that tattoo was supposed to go on a man’s chest or back. It was a huge battleship with guns blazing. Uncle Bert told the guy to put it on his bicep.

He did. It fit.

I said that Uncle Bert died. It was extremely sad. He wasn’t much past 40 when he contracted Leukemia. All the big muscles and rigorous workouts couldn’t do a damned thing to save him. He just wasted away. It broke my Dad’s heart to visit him in the hospital. He was my Dad’s best friend at the time.

The memory I recall about Uncle Bert took place much earlier, when I was 2, I think. That would have made him 26 or thereabouts. He was visiting our home in Dorchester. He gave me a two-dollar bill. I'm not really sure why he gave it to me, but I think this may have been during a time when my Dad was working for Eastern Airlines out of New York, which he did for a year or so. I think Uncle Bert may have been trying to help my Mom and me, by giving us a couple of bucks for groceries, but my Mom probably refused the gift directly. So, Uncle Bert gave ME the two bucks, knowing that a little boy wouldn’t refuse a gift from a beloved "family member." I do clearly remember going shopping for food at the First National Supermarket with that money, thus why I think that’s what the gift was about.

(I don’t know if my Mom remembers this at all, but she may. If she’s reading this, and can shed any more light, I’m sure we'd all appreciate it.)

Those are my earliest memories. What are yours? I’d really like to know. I think it would be interesting to compare how far back they go; whether they’re nice or something you’d rather forget; if they involve loved ones no longer around; and all of the other attendant details. I’d love it if you tell me one or two. Be free with the details. Thanks!


lime said...

very interesting what makes a lasting impression on us isn't it?

i was 2 yrs and 9 months old and my brother had just been born. she was away at the hospital for some days and it was the day we brought her home. daddy drove us to the hospital to pick up her and the new brother. i was sooo excited when i saw her being wheeled near to us. i ran up to her while she and the baby were in the wheelchair, jumped onto her lap and they wheeled all three of us out to the car. (when i became a mother i realized how much pain and discomfort my leap onto her lap must have caused.) i remember going into the house with everyone. mom and the baby went first and i lingered back with daddy and whispered to him, 'is that my new baby brother or a dolly for me?'

oddly, as a young child i had recurring nightmares involving big angry giants too...always the exact same dream whenever i had a bad fever.

Balcony Gal said...

I remember being in a crib, so I was younger than two, and having one of those pull toys. I pulled it over my big toe and it hurt so bad and I cried but no on came (my parents didn't mean to neglect me. I don't think...). I noticed it made a spot on my big toe. Ok, not really but it must have been the first time I noticed the little freckle. It's still there and I always remember that the pull toy put it there.

Mushy said...

Great story that brought a lot back to me as well. Our first TV was about 6 or 8 inches across, but I still remember watching Gorgeous George wrestle and the Gillette fights on it.

Dad once turned it toward an open window and we sat outside watching and eating homemade ice cream! A great moment in my life!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

That was a great story, particularly about the tatoo. he sounds like a cool dude, fer sure.

My earliest memories are all from Bermuda, where I was born. The folkls were in the Air Force, and bermuda was a sweet gig to have. They loved it.

I remember looking at the ocean from a beach, and thinking how blue it was and how deep it must be. I also remember going to a nice restaurant on the beach and looking into a barrel of lobsters. I'm sure I was lifted up to look, with them thinking it would scare me. LOOOOVE me some lobster!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Oh, and I think you can see buttons at the bottom of the screen on that TV. Our big cabinet B&W had nobs.

Minnesotablue said...

My Grandfather lived upstairs from us and the house was old and my Grandfather was not the cleanest person(he lived alone) and I remember trying to crawl the stairs up to see him and my Mom would get upset cause it was so dirty. She would spank my but every time! I must have been about two years old cause I was still wearing diapers. That's my earliest memory, however the memory that sticks with me most is this: My father was in the Navy, WW2 and I remember him coming home from leave. He walked me to the store which was a few blocks away and was dressed in his white uniform> People would stop and shake his hand smile or nod and I remember being on top of the world!

Suldog said...

My Mom tried to share this one, but couldn't post for some reason:

"I don't remember that incident but I do agree with you that Uncle Bert was a wonderful friend and it was terrible to lose him at such an early age.

I DO remember the first time we took you to visit him and his parents in Readville. You were about a month old and your father, being the typical first time parent, was sure the bottom was going to drop out of your baby carrier or you would catch some horrible disease from being out amongst people. It was all I could do to persuade him to take you for the visit. If he had had his druthers, you'd probably still be locked up in the house away from all 'trouble'."

Anonymous said...

My earliest memory is of looking around the ward in my mother's arms when I was 1-2 weeks old. I have described the ward, the shape of the beds, the windows, the number of beds, the colours - all seen through my eyes. Don't ask me how I could recognise colour, shape, numbers - my mother was adament she never described any of it to me and, as I say my memory is of myself looking around and seeing it all through my eyes.

TickledPink said...

I consider myself lucky if I can remember all the way back to where I put the car keys.

My earliest memory, tho, was of trying to get sneaky at the breakfast table. I was in my high chair and eating oatmeal. I had to be between 1 and 2 I think. I would always finish my food and then, to get Mom laughing, I'd turn the bowl upsidedown on my head.

This particular morning I didn't want to eat all the oatmeal. I had this epiphany that hey! I can just skip that part and go right to making Mom laugh and she'll never know.

I turned the bowl of oatmeal upsidedown on my head and my mother ran to get the camera.

45 or 46 years later now, she still likes to drag that one out and say "just look at the look on your face -- like you never saw it coming! Precious!"

I got her laughing, all right. She hasn't quit yet.

Janet said...

Somehow I missed this when it came around. My earliest memory is of my brother and I standing next to the couch in my grandparents' house where my father was lying, he was very tired and was telling us he loved us. I was 3 1/2 and Clark was 2. That's the part I remember. I found out many years later that he died that night. He had had a brain tumor removed a few months earlier and just never really recovered. The reason he was lying on the couch is that he had tried to ride a bike around the neighborhood. My uncle (who was 18 at the time) had to go find him. He had stopped to rest and couldn't continue the ride.
We got our first tv when I was 4, and my mother used to let me watch (or didn't know I was watching probably) Dark Shadows. I had nightmares about vampires until I was about 10 that I couldn't relate to anything until about 15 years ago when I discovered reruns of Dark Shadows on the SciFi channel. It all came back! The recurring nightmare that replaced that one had to do with me running (that slow motion running you do in dreams) through our backyard that was entirely surrounded by fire and being chased by a goriilla. I had that dream until I was over 30. Not sure what stopped it.

Suldog said...

Janet - That's a bizarre one. Fire and gorillas? That sounds WAY scarier than a giant. I'm happy to hear you stopped having that one.

Anonymous said...

Nice and thanks!