My very earliest memory is a “freeze frame”—no action, just a mental picture of the dining room of the home where my parents and I boarded during our months in Paris. The picture in my mind is of a fairly dark room with one very bright, white window. We were there at the time of the war scare in September of 1938, but I was too little for it to mean anything to me.
We left France for Africa in April of 1939, and my second memory is also a freeze frame, this time of the dining room on the German ship we traveled on. Hmmm. Should I make something of the fact that my two earliest memories are of dining rooms…? Whatever, my picture of that second one is very different from the first. It is a white, white room with a high, high ceiling and filled with little round tables with white tablecloths.
The third memory follows on the heels of the second, but it has action in it. I was still two months short of my third birthday the day that ship docked on the west coast of Africa, at the port of Krebe in the country of Cameroon. The centerpiece of this memory has always been the sight, on shore, of our blue pickup truck that had preceded us.
The action part of this memory was the way we got off the huge ocean liner that day. Ever try going down the side of a ocean liner on a stairway and into a small boat? In my original memory, it was a ladder and a canoe, but I now know it was a staircase and a fair-size rowboat. All of it was especially precarious for my mother since she was six months pregnant.
We loaded our possessions on the little truck and set out for the interior of the continent where my parents’ missionary work awaited them. I don’t remember the trip, but I’m sure it was long—at least a week, perhaps a few days more than that. None of the roads were paved, of course. I wish my parents were still alive so I could ask them about where we slept at night and what we did for food along the way.
All I know is that my next memory is of my third birthday two months later. For whatever reason, my parents woke me up from my nap for my party—if one can call it a “party” since not another soul was around for it except my parents. The tiny black and white pictures show me with a deep scowl on my face, and I actually do remember being unhappy because they woke me up from a hard sleep.
What is your earliest memory? I’d love to hear about it.