If the lyrics to the Guns N’ Roses song Civil War are true, Axl Rose, at the age of 1 year and 9 months old clearly remembers the assassination of JFK calling that his first memories. Maybe he was older, and, like how we were still talking about September 11 years after the event, maybe in his household, neighbourhood or school it was something discussed and the assassination of “Jack” Kennedy was something that stuck with him.
I often think about what my own first memories are. Sure it’s easy to look at a photo of yourself and it jog your memory about a time, a place, a person in your life, or an event. I know there are plenty of memories that I have from when I was only four years old as my mother used to tell me about them all the time, and I vaguely, or often vividly remember these things.
I remember that we had a backyard swimming pool where I would spend hours diving to the bottom to rescue the Smurfs I threw in. I remember when my parents had dinner on the table I was called to come inside and I’d tell whomever was calling me;
“I don’t has to if I do wants to…”
No, that’s not a grammatical error. That is exactly what I used to say.
Again though, my parents used to tell the story of me doing this when I was older, so I wonder if the memory I have of this is based on the memory of my parents telling me I did this, or whether the memory I have of doing it is based on me actually remembering what a grammatically inaccurate and arrogant child I was.
Although I don’t have photos to look at to remind me of this, I can remember my preschool that I attended from the age of three until I was almost five years old. I can remember where the teachers rolled out the mattresses for our day nap. I can remember the wall of books. And I can remember the four foot high gate out the front that many of my fellow students tried to climb in order to escape, only to have me pull them down and tell them about how cool preschool was. I loved that preschool. Maybe it’s why I have such vivid memories of it.
I can remember sitting in the back of my dad’s car at the end of seeing Watership Down at the drive-in. As it was released in March 1979 in Australia, I was a month short of turning five years old when it came out. And whilst I cannot remember the movie itself, having never seen it again since, I can remember going to see it. It’s not a memory that my parents ever talked about so I know it’s one of my own.
I can remember being into ABBA by the age of four with their Arrival album, having been released two years prior being one that I liked to sing and dance to and it was on high rotation on my family’s record player. I can remember being five years old and sitting in our lounge room watching the new Kiss song’s film clip “I Was Made For Loving You” on the show Countdown.
With my kids being eight and five, I wonder what things they’ll remember from the ages that they are now, or what their own earliest memories will be. I know that both now talk about things we did one, two or even three years ago. The eight year old, the one who cannot remember what he did each day at school when I pick him up often tells me about things we did when he was four. He remembers things that he was into, paces we went, and things that we did. Still, he cannot remember whether he brushed he teeth or not five minutes before bed, but there’s many memories he has now that are not prompted by photos, videos or memories that my wife and I remind him of.
I hope that all the memories that they do have locked up in the backs of their minds that will be released one day are all happy ones. I hope they don’t remember their childhood being full of yelling and shouting for them to get ready, to eat their dinner, to get into the bath, to get out of the bath. I hope that their most vivid memories are not of Mum and Dad telling them to get their pyjamas on, or to get their uniform on, or to get their shoes on.
I hope the things they remember are the bike rides, the movies we see together, the laughs and the fun. I hope that they remember those Wiggle concerts, the days spent at the beach, and the special treats they got each time they were well behaved.
And I hope more than anything, they have these memories for themselves, and not because they’ve seen the happy snaps, or they only hear the great memories that Mum and Dad share.
What’s your earliest memory?