Sunday, April 3, 2016
When I was a kid, people sort of got into "First Memory" contests. One friend would claim they remembered something from when they were 2, and another would brag that they had an encyclopedic memory of their life from age 6 months on.
Though I still don't know when, scientifically at least, is the earliest our brains let us store real, formed long term memories, I was always somewhat a skeptic of these super specific, super early memoirs some seemed to have stored with their pin numbers, most embarassing moments and local commercial jingles. I can't say I know for sure how clear and accurate first memories can be, and perhaps...I could be a bit jealous. If it was possible to remember back to those first months, then a whole world would open up to me, and I could know so much more about the missing third of this picture.
As it stands, my first memory takes up one fraction of a sentence. It's simply an image in my head of almost unnaturally bright colors. Cobalt blue, sunflower yellow, carrot orange- the whole rainbow represented, against a backdrop of 70s wood panelling.
I can't recall whether it was in mentioning this memory to my mom or in stumbling across a picture in my baby album that I realized what all the colors and wood panelling were about. My first memory, it turns out, is of a blanket. A bright blue quilted blanket with a rocking horse on it, and a big rainbow stretched out behind the horse. The rocking horse wears a cowboy hat, and in the picture, the blanket hangs on a crib in a room with wood panelling.
We still have that blanket, packed away with a number of baby things that made the journey with my mom and I from Colorado to Illinois after my dad passed away. That blanket was in both places. It was mine when mom and dad both were mine, when I was breathing mountain air. It was part of a life that could have been, and part of a life that was instead later.
Maybe I don't remember his arms, or his voice. Maybe I don't remember what it was like to live in the foothills or be held in the strong arms of my father. Maybe I just remember the rainbow blanket. I like to think the blanket remembers for me. That maybe some mountain air is trapped in the pillowy quilted squares. Maybe a stray soft scent or even the echo of some time when there were three. And maybe that's why the very first thing I remember is a link between us that I can touch and hold today.