Memory is an interesting thing. We are so certain that what we remember is true, and yet often it is not. Memory is important because out decision making is based heavily in our memory. Yet memory of the past is twofold – the events we know and the story we tell. Often the events we recall are distorted and the story is faulty.
Enough of my preamble.
My earliest ‘memory’ is of snow. My father, brother and I were travelling in a car for a long time. The car seemed to go around and around in circles. Eventually we stopped and got out and there was snow on the ground. I remember that it was about 2-7 cm deep, mostly about 5 cm. It was white, cold and crunchy. Every foot fall was a rubbing crunchy feeling. There was not really enough snow to have a proper snow ball fight. I’m not even sure that I knew what that was. I knew that snow was rare, so this was important.
We were not wearing adequate clothing and my brother and I got very cold. There was no snow on the road where the cars drove, only on the edge of the road and between the tacks of cars. We all got back into the car and went home.
At home, I remember standing in the bathroom with my brother, watching the bath fill up with water. It was an old fashioned stand alone tub, which was in the centre of the room, the head up against the wall. My father had filled the bath tub in the adult fashion, that is, the hot water goes on first, the cold water gets added later.
I think we were supposed to tell Dad when the water was high enough to add cold.
I knew the water was very hot. Dangerously hot, in fact. I remember glancing at my brother and clearly thinking to myself “this will get him back for all those things he did to me” and pushing him in.
I don’t remember the next bit. What I know now is that he got burns all the way up his arm. They mostly healed but he still has a scar on his thumb.
I have tracked these memories down to 2 years of age (that is, I was 2, not the memories).
From this story the most likely thoughts you are thinking are
1) That Joshua guy is pretty cold hearted to do that to his brother – and he was 2!
2) What on earth did his brother do to him that this seemed like a good idea?
Of course, I allow or you to have tons of other thoughts. Mostly this is my fear of how people will judge me.
Let’s look at the events though. I remember driving in circles and it seemed to take a long time. For a long time I thought this memory was me leaving Melbourne and going to Perth, away from my father. It was only in the last few years that I more accurately placed it with going up the mountain to see snow, since travelling in circles to go from Melbourne to Perth is illogical. Is this where the memory really resides?
Another thing is, I have never got verification of the details of what the bathroom looked like. I have asked my brother, but he won’t talk about it (this is a quite frequent occurrence and I don’t blame him for turning his back on the past and making a new future). Thus I don’t actually know if my memories of the room are correct.
If the room isn’t correct, is my thought? The event that is known, independently, is that my brother got burnt in a bathtub, went to hospital and was very sore. My father was in charge since we were staying with him for a bit. No one ever accused me of pushing him. It was always labelled “an accident”. So, did I actually push him, or am I making that bit up to complete the story? If I am completing the story, did I really think “this will get him back”?
Another aspect is the memory itself. Do I remember the memory of when I was two, or do I remember the image that I recalled, and distorted, a few years ago, which was a recollection of an image, distorted more, from a few years before, and so on all the way back to my childhood? I am fairly confident that I no longer look at the memory raw – I only look at my adults understanding and perception of that memory.
How does this flavour my life? I have defined my earliest memory as vengeance on my brother. I could see this as I am a victim, I could see this as I am a warrior, or I could see myself as a martyr, trying to take the blame for an act that I was innocent of.
Very few of the facts are known and much of the story is uncertain. Perhaps I should make a new story to explain the facts.
When I was two, my father took my brother and I to see the snow. I remember that snow was rare in Australia. It was a cold but fun time. When we got back home, my father, who cared for us, was filling up the bath with hot water so we could get warm. Unfortunately my brother got burned by the hot water, but no real damage was done and he is fine now.
All the verifiable facts are present, and I like this story.