What is your earliest memory?

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.)

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Confabulation, Confusion, Creativity . . . or True?

For me I have a hard time knowing if I truly remember . . .

Or am I remembering some-one else’s description of an event in my life as retold to me by them (many years ago and perhaps many times)?

e.g. My mother tells me, perhaps a number of times over the years, about something that I did when I was 3 yrs. old . . .

something memorable! . . . :joy:!

Am I remembering the “memory” . . . the actual event?

Or do I think I am remembering the event . . . when I am actually remembering the story . . .

Confusing isn’t it . . .



I have a good imagination, so there are times that I’m sure I “remembered” an event from the perspective of the person who told me the story. In those memories, I tend to “see” myself in third-person view, as if from the standpoint of the person who told me.


Then you are a better man than me my friend . . . :blush:


Hah! :rofl:
A better man? Who can say. I definitely think that you’re a good man, Barry, from how I’ve gotten to know you!

Actually, I have a great imagination! It’s a tool in my toolbox, a brush on my artist’s easel, a weapon in my arsenal, an arrow in my quiver… But it can also work against me.

*It helps me when learning something, but can steer me into hyperfocus on the minutiae or on one facet, when I ought to learn the whole lesson.

  • When wielded together with empathy, a powerful imagination can spur me to leave no stone unturned in an effort to help someone, or it can paralyze me to inaction by becoming obsessed with the things I can’t do to help that person.

  • I can envision things very well (real or conceptual) to see objects and scenarios in full 3-D in my head, able to start and freeze motion, turn things around, change my perspective, to be able to examine the idea thoroughly …Or, as often happens, I daydream, my mind wandering, as lost as Alice in Wonderland…

And sometimes, just sometimes, I’m unsure if a memory is truly a memory, or if I visualized how someone else related their recollection of a shared experience.

The early memories that I started this thread off with I am nearly-100% sure are my own true memories, because I can remember smell and touch (and in the one memory: pain).


My earliest memories aren’t fun. They’re that I got abused at the age of 2/3. The first fun memory that I have is hearing dragostea din tei on the radio in a store. I might’ve been 4 or something when that happened.


Im sorry for you. :frowning:


I’m saddened and angered every time I hear that a person has been advised. Such things should never happen, especially to a child.

@Bubbles17, how fitting it is that for you music would be a happy memory! (I’m not familiar with that song. :thinking:)
I have early memories of hearing my mom singing, but that’s about it. I didn’t pay much attention to music until I got to Jr High, when I caught on to the fact that popular music was important to me peers. (I was a geek who liked science fiction and comic books. :nerd_face:)


I know. But I’ve learned to forgive. My biological mother really tried her best to take care of me but she just couldn’t do it. She does love me though. She didn’t mean to abuse me. My stepfather on the other hand I don’t know. I don’t know his story so I’m not gonna judge it. What I do know is that he did the most harm to me.

Ikr. One of my other early memories is my grandparents 40th anniversary in marriage. I was a foster child already. I remember dancing and singing to music all night. I was around 3 years old at the time.


My geekiness :nerd_face: was listening to classical music . . . and not being familiar with rock groups popular with other teenagers.


Ah music … If smell is one of the first senses outside the womb hearing occurs inside the womb starting at 18 wk and near fully formed at 24 (first baby ref I could find) for those who don’t know babies pop out (ah that might be understating it a bit there Lui) at 40-42 wks So whatever your tastes are in music it’s probably driven by whatever your mother was listening to/singing before u got to take your first breath.

Does not explain how come I like almost any genre of music except Dr Seuss with swear words (rap) .


Babies definitely respond to familiar sounds. I can attest to this.

When my wife was pregnant with our older son (our second child, but my first biological child), I was very excited and spoke to him often while he was growing in her womb. When he got big enough that his kicking would wake her up, I would sing ‘Hush Little Baby’ to try to get him to settle…and it worked most of the time, too.

When he was born, the nurse did the usual wellness checks, which involves pricking the newborn’s foot for a blood test. Of course, this makes the baby cry.

  • When they did this to my son, my wife had already asked me to be right by his side. I had put my finger into his tiny hand, and he had grabbed into it.
  • As soon as his heel was pricked, he started to cry (of course). I bent down and started singing ‘Hush Little Baby’ to him, and he quieted down in about 2-3 seconds.
  • The doctor looked impressed, and the nurses were looked astonished. I think that one of the nurses said they’d never seen such a thing. (Usually babies cry a bit longer than that, usually a couple of minutes or more, like my other son who I think kept crying until he was snuggled up in his momma’s arms.)

The power of music . . .

Fascinating story!



But I have only heard a couple of people in my life who claimed that they could remember their birth (and one who claimed he could remember being in the womb), but I’ve never been sure that I could take those claims at face value.

However, if I remember right fun when we were kids, I recall my younger brother claiming that he could remember things from before his second birthday. The memories that he related to me at the time made me believe him. (Now that he’s on his 40’s, I’m not sure if he can still remember that far back.)



worth NOTING (:sunglasses:)


I really wish I’d done the same with my youngest kids (I mean talking to them and singing to them all the time before they were born). I still did so, but not as much as I did with my older son.

With the youngest two, I did often sing a lullaby to them when they were babies, starting at their births (my go-to song changed to “Jesus loves me, this I know”). …I still occasionally sing this to my youngest.

I’ve got to laugh at myself…I started this topic about “earlier (childhood) memory”, and now I’m reminiscing about my memories of my children’s earliest years.
(Sigh)… Sweet nostalgia!


Hey @j_d_aengus. Found it hard to respond your first post, too beautiful, and no those were not tears, I just had something in my eyes.

I think we’d all like to have done more for the rest of the kids ultimately I’ve resigned myself to having done what I can, and make myself as best as I can to keep going at it.