Daily Prompt: Childhood Revisited
What is your earliest memory? Describe it in detail, and tell us why you think that experience was the one to stick with you.
“Aunt Sally, what’s your earliest childhood memory?” asked Manda while thumbing through the pages of an already treasured new horse book. Christmas had been good to her.
“Why do you ask, sweetie?” Sally hesitated. Her memory of those early years were foggy at best. And not all the memories good.
“Oh, I don’t know. I just wondered.” Manda stopped admiring her book and sat back in her chair, arms folded waiting for an answer. She loved her Aunt Sal and was curious to know all about her. Besides, there’d been an assignment at school to discover hidden depths in a favourite family member. For Manda, Aunt Sal was that person.
Sally thought for a moment. Her earliest childhood memory that wouldn’t throw them both for a loop. Hmmm … it had to be qualified. “Give me a moment, please dear.” She stood up from the kitchen table and walked over to the counter to fetch a piece of homemade shortbread from the tin. Her mind was a blank. Searching for memories had always been troublesome for her. She’d spent so much of her life somewhere else. Dissociated. She could recall the cumulative trauma, but that was hardly a memory she could share with a 12-year-old girl.
“Aunt Sally … can you even remember your childhood?” Manda was beginning to feel concerned.
How perceptive she was, thought Sally brushing a tear from her cheek while still bent over the counter eating her cookie. Finally, she turned to face her niece.
“Auntie!!!” Manda squealed, upset at the sight of her aunt’s watery eyes. She jumped from her seat and ran over to give her a big hug. “What’s wrong? I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
Sally choked back a sob and cleared her throat. She wrapped her arms around Manda and gave her a big squeeze. “Sweetie, you didn’t make me cry. My lack of memories makes me cry. I wish I could share with you my earliest childhood memory, but I can’t. It’s just too painful and I don’t want to hurt you.” She knew it was better to be honest. A lie simply bred more lies.
“Oh, auntie, I’m so sorry,” Manda pulled a piece of paper towel off the roll and gave it to her aunt whose only tissue was now in tatters. “If I’d known I’d never have asked.”
“But you weren’t to know, Manda, so please don’t worry. I have many good memories, just not too many good early ones. There was too much trauma in my life too soon, which is to say life became overwhelming before I was mature enough to handle it. Traumatized little ones develop all kinds of coping strategies to help them get through life. Often these carry on into adulthood and can be quite destructive if not addressed. My strategy was to check out when my life got too stressful. That’s why I don’t remember a lot of it. Sadly, a lot of grown ups never seek, or find, the help they need.”
“Like uncle Ted?” Manda wondered about her aunt’s ex-husband.
“Yes, like your uncle Ted.”
“What about you?”
Sally sighed. “Oh, I was finally able to get the help I needed a few years ago. That’s made my life more liveable now, but it still doesn’t reclaim all the lost memories.”
“Do you have any nice childhood memory you can share?” Manda asked, her eyes wide with hope.
Sally beckoned Manda to the kitchen table where they sat down across from one another. She thought for a moment, and then smiled. “When I was six years old,” she began, “I lived for a year with my grandmother … your great granny, Esther. Mother was off on a world tour and my father was absent, so I lived with gran. Of course, I went to school ~ grade 2 ~ and it was about that time that my musical talents began to surface. So, for the school play, Bambi, I was given a song to sing.”
“You were! Which one?” Manda was excited to know.
“Drip, drip, drop little April shower …” Sally sang what she remembered.
“Oh, I know that song!” Manda squealed with joy, remembering the animated movie soundtrack.
“I’d be surprised if you didn’t,” Sally grinned.
“Were you happy?”
“Yes, I was happy. Gran had outfitted me in my favourite red velvet dress with gold buttons down the front and put tight ringlets in my hair. For just a little while I was the centre of her universe, so I felt pretty special.”
“What happened next?” Manda was all ears.
Gran took me for a hamburger and milkshake at the old hotel on Main Street. Bit of a dive, but it didn’t matter. I remember her boasting about me to her friends. I have good memories around that.”
Manda was entranced. “Oh, auntie, thank you for telling me your story. You have such a beautiful voice.” And then Manda paused, a look of curiosity swept into her eyes. “Why didn’t you grow up to be a singer?”
“That, my dear,” sighed her aunt, “is a story for another day.”
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