What is your earliest memory?
I was prompted by Barry’s response in another post about remembering smells.
Several times in my life, I remember hearing about how smells can trigger memories, and that this is especially true for small children. (Weird fact: Babies supposedly can identify their own mother by smell.)
My earliest memory (at least I’m pretty sure that it’s a memory) is triggered by the smell of machine oil and/or old leather. The memory is as if remembering a dream.
[Background] When I was very little, my dad was in the US Army, and he was stationed in Europe. Shortly after he was posted there, my mom, brother and I joined him. I was four years old when his your of duty was over and we returned to the states, and I have no recollection of being in Europe except this one memory:
- I smell machine oil. I hear the sound of my little feet tromping on the platform (I think it was made of cement). I get to the steps going up to the train car, and they seem almost as high as me knee. I have to reach upwards for the handrail. As soon as I’m in the compartment, I scramble onto the red leather seat and look out the window (I think I was looking for my mom out the window, and I think that my older brother was hot on my heels the whole time).
My second-oldest memory is not triggered by smell, but it also has to do with a train:
- When we came back to the States, we visited family, and we went to Disneyland. I don’t remember getting my Mickey Mouse ears, I don’t remember meeting Tigger or Minnie Mouse, but there are photos of all those things. I don’t remember going on the Dumbo ride, even though I’m sure that my parents told me that I went on it. What I remember is …PAIN!
- My ears were extremely sensitive to loud noises (maybe I was that sensitive naturally, or maybe it was due to having many bad ear infections between birth and age four). My dad and brother went on the Big Thunder Mountain ride, and my mom and I sat on a bench next to the ride. When the train came screaming by our bench, I screamed, too. Even with my mom’s warm, soft hands pressed firmly over my ears, it felt like somebody had jammed icepicks into both my ears at the very moment the train raced by!
- I must have had a good time at Disneyland overall, even have no other memory that visit, because for years after that I only had good feelings about “The Happiest Place on Earth” with the only exceptions of the mention of Big Thunder Mountain or Space Mountain (which I think that I was afraid of just knowing that it was also a roller coaster ride.
My oldest continuous memories, which started at age four, are of a happy place, living in college family housing among many other families with kids my age. (My dad went to grad school immediately after getting out of the Army. He’d finished his Bachelor’s degree while he was in the Service.)