Monday, March 20, 2006

The Earliest Memory....


I was under our baby grand piano; the one my mother traded in for a Hammond Spinet Organ when I was twenty, making me so mad I cried for hours. The beautiful, mahogany piano with the ivory keys I loved to touch so much. The Baldwin piano with the tight brass strings inside, that could be plucked and made to sound like an angry harp muffled under velvet cloth.

It always sat in one corner of the living room; sometimes the top was propped open and sometimes it was down, with a piano scarf and a lovely vase. I loved to stand and touch those keys and make them sing, reaching up to touch the keyboard. I loved looking inside of it, noticing the way the strings were attached; the curving geometry sensual. I experimented and learned how the felted hammers struck those strings, producing beautiful, melodious sounds.

I loved to press the floor pedals and imagine how it might feel to play the keys and the pedals together. I was nearly three.

The doorbell rang. It was spring or summer; I was dressed for warm weather. I heard my mom answer the door. It was some woman I had never seen before - or had no memory of - and I had no interest in meeting her. I crawled under the piano and scooted back to the far corner. "I can hide here", I thought, "she'll never find me and I won't come out until that woman leaves".

Mom offered her coffee or some springish libation like iced tea, and they sat on the sofa and chatted. I sat very still, under the piano, in my hiding corner, as quiet as a mouse. Soon mom called out, "Judy, where are you? Come and meet Mrs. _______". I said nothing, and she resumed chatting, all the while wondering where I had gone. Soon, her curiosity got the better of her, and she got up to find me. It didn't take long, as she knew that was my hiding place, my special, little girl's fort. She coaxed and coaxed and I wouldn't budge. I have no idea why, but I was not about to come out and meet that woman. She finally made apologies for me, and the woman left. I crawled out from under the piano, happy to have my mom all to myself again.

That truly is the earliest memory that I have. What is yours?





34 comments:

Mamacita said...

Oh Judy, I used to play underneath our grand piano all the time! I also loved to climb on top of it and pretend it was a huge sailboat. I'd forgotten all about that till I read your post. Thank you for bringing back some delightful memories. I cried when Mom sold ours, too. It later reappeared within the family, but I think I might post about that later.

Duke_of_Earle said...

What a clear memory of details for it to be your oldest! I have scattered bits of memories from when I was 3 or 4 or 5, but nothing that thorough.

John

Duke_of_Earle said...

P. S. (I hope your *shhhh* dishwasher *shhhh* is better soon.)

ET said...

Judy,
My earliest memory is not quiet as glamorous as yurs.
I was afraid of dogs, or at least I was facinated by them, but scared when I had to touch one of pet one. I think I was probably under three and a dog was between me and my house.
I went to my grandparents house. Which shocked my family because they lived a mile away with several turns.
My uncles kidded me for years after that, saying that dog wagged its tail for a mile chasing me.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Somebody in our lumber camp ran over my brother's toy metal airplane. Naturally, he claimed it was "my" airplane. But I don't remember anything else for another 50 years or so...

metten said...

About ten different times, I have settled on my earliest memory, only to remember something that happened earlier. I remember waking up in my great-grandmother's lap on an old green couch in the living room of their farmhouse. I asked great grandmother where my mom was and she told me that they were tearing down the barn. I went back to sleep. I would swear on a stack of Bibles that it happened and was my first memory, but my mother swears that they didn't raze the barn until after Great-grandmother's death. How's that for a creepy non-memory from a guy you'll never meet?

srp said...

I remember being four or five and playing under the carport in Roanoke. There was an apple tree at the side of the house and the ground sloped down toward the carport. I would climb the tree and jump out and roll down the hill. I also remember making mud pies and setting them on the ground under the carport to dry.

Seamus said...

I remember my Great Great Grandmother's piano - it was all but distroyed in a fire in the storehouse - but we salvaged the legs and dad made lamp bases for us 4 children and I just found the music stand intact recently.

Earliest memory is during a visit to my Grandma's in Norristown, PA. I crawled up on the trunk and looked out the window. I was very confused because our next door neighbor wasn't there.

joared said...

My earliest memory is around age 3. Years later as an adult I was able to verify my memory with my mother. She seemed surprised I remembered, as she was with a number of other memories I asked her about over the years.

I remembered being inside a house that had a rather darkened interior. A very strange and unappealing odor permeated the air. There was sombody's funeral.

Mother confirmed that, indeed, we had gone to a family member's funeral in the days when people in that community had the showing of the deceased's body in their home, when embalming methods were somewhat different than now.

Upon recollection, I had no particular feelings about that event, just the memory of that strange unpleasant odor.

I have since read that some of the earliest memories are often associated with the sense of smell.

mar said...

You have an amazing memory. I remember my sister as a baby, so I must have been 5, I was holding her and I wasn't supposed to. I can still see my mom's scared look standing at the door. I don't know what happened afterwards! Michele sent me this time!

Linda said...

I want to be under your piano too! Your word imagery is fantastic...makes me want to go buy a baby grand so I can see all the things you talked about!

I try not to remember too much of my childhood...while it wasn't all bad, there were enough things that sucked...

Linda said...

forgot to say - Michele sent me!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I have very early memories too complex to put into a comment, Judy..but I might blog about all that sometime...or maybe not...

Did you ever find out who that lady was that came to visit? I love that underneath the piano felt like such a safe wonderful hiding place for you...Do you play, Judy?

Merle said...

Hi Judy ~~ Glad you are well again.
My earliest memory is when we lived at Dixons Creek about one hour out of
Melbourne on a farm. My mother used to send out Peter, me and our half brother
Jack to collect "morning's wood" from
under the gum trees on the side of the road. This was kindling to light the fires with - wood stove and open fire
for heating. I was about 4. Not half as romantic as your beautiful piano story. Cheers, Merle.

Angie said...

My earliest memories are before age 3. They are not happy ones.

Chancy said...

My earliest memory. I must have been about 3. My older brother had lifted me onto his shoulders to watch the fireworks at a fair.

And also, now this is odd, I remember the taste of what they used to call a "sugar tit" used for babies who were colicky or teething. A small piece of cloth with butter andsugar inside and soaked in whiskey.
For me this must have been about 75 years ago.


I googled "sugar tit" and found this from the recollections of a woman in Texas who was born in 1906

"She tells how she would make a "sugar tit" and pike it into my face to quiet me. A sugar-tit is made from a teaspoon of butter and lots of sugar and tied up in a small piece of cloth. Sucking on it soothes a fussy baby."

Carolyn said...

I was about 3 and we lived on a farm. My older brother was 14. We had pigs, chickens, dogs, cats, & cattle. There was one new calf that I claimed as my pet (my 1st pet ever). I named it Taffy 'cause it was colored up like the saltwater candy. Taffy's cow mother died so we had to hand feed her from a "suckling bucket". I remember riding piggyback on my brother's shoulders on a very foggy morning down to the barn to feed Taffy her formula. When we came back to the house, Mom had baked oatmeal/raisin cookies and we ate them warm from the oven. The kitchen smelled wonderful! My 2nd vivid memory is of several months later when Dad sold off the cattle and I cried & cried as I watched the man lead Taffy into his cattle truck and drive away.

colleen said...

playing outside, putting a rock in my mouth and wondering if my mother could see me do it.

I have a little Loose Leaf quiz I think you'd be good at.

Jamie Dawn said...

I remember going to the drive-in movie. My dad was pushing me on the swings during intermission and he pushed me right out of the swing. I really konked my head and cried and cried. I remember how badly he felt and he seemed angry at himself and at the swing's seat at the same time. I have no idea how old I was.

Romani Heart said...

I can remember my mom telling me not to touch the Aqua Velvet (is that what it was called?) bottles on the table while she cleaned out from under the bathroom sink. Of course I did, and busted one. I ended up in the hospital with blood poisoning (not sure what that is in real medical terms)and surgery to find the tiny piece of glass in my foot. I was barely three.

goldenlucyd said...

Kenju,
This is one of your best posts ever. (Have I said that before?) I so enjoyed reading all the comments too. Thanks to everybody. I wish I had time to write about my trip on the riverboat from Cinci to Cleveland but we're getting ready to go to Benihana (Janapese steakhouse) so I've got to get dolled up. See you all soon.
lucyd

poopie said...

Riding out on the farm with my grandaddy. He died when I was three, so I know it was before that we'd go driving around lookin' at stuff. The road ended at some woods and I always thought there were tigers and lions in there.

Paige said...

My earliest, my big brother telling me the train was going to fall on me. I still have a phobia about pulling up to close. Go figure. thanks for coming by my place.

Zee said...

I remember eating oatmeal for breakfast in my high chair. The room is big and the table is long. I'm at the end of the table; opposite me would be the other end, and the window right behind it. The window is open. There's like an iron fence on it instead of a window screen. It's crisp, not too windy, and my mom has music playing. It's her favorite vinyl, not a small one, which usually needed a yellow thingie in the middle to play, this one is big. Camilo Sesto sings. Mom sings along. I still remember all the words.

Mom says it's impossible for me to remember this, that I was too young, but I do. I can even describe the wall on my left was a painted mural, with a boat, palm, sand, and lots of waves in the sea.

:)

Carmi said...

I love this memory. So rich and relatable. You have a way of always doing that!

Mine wasn't so happy: I was on an OR table, crying my eyes out as the docs tried to set my legs and get me into a cast. I was born with mucked up hips and spent a good chunk of my childhood in hospital. I remember wanting my mother, and all I could see were the overhead lights, shining down like flying saucers.

But that was a one-time thing. Every other recollection of the hospital was, oddly, as a place of comfort and safety. I used to look out the window at the bustling city below and feel happy that I was inside, in a place where I could wander to the playroom and play Trouble with one of the nurses.

Thanks for letting me take a bit of a trip.

JunieRose2005 said...

I wrote about my earliest memory on my Blog#2 About Mom: my earliest memories!

My earliest memory is of dropping my rag doll down a well- and the efforts of my Dad and brother to try and get her out! They never did! :( I was age 3 or younger!

Junie

Plumkrazzee said...

My first memory is not so happy, either. I remember my mom sitting in her lazy-boy rocking my new baby sister. The baby was screaming, and my mom was bawling uncontrollably, and I remember taking her a box of Kleenexes. (Side note: my mom suffered not from post partum depression...but from post partum psychosis, but I didn't know that until much later in life) I must have been like 3 or so. About that same time I have a better memory of sitting on a bench window seat with my dad eating Chex cereal and watching the neighbor cat out in our yard. I can even remember what I was wearing....

Janet said...

My earliest memory was when I was 2 or 3; the Mr. Softee ice cream truck came down our street right about the same time my mother was trying to get me to go to bed. Guess who won that battle? Yup, Mr. Softee :-)

Paul said...

Judy, I don't have memories...I have had adventures. I think you read them.
Nice post; charming.

MommaK said...

I think mine is outside on my swingset. I always confuse early memories with photographs I've seen.

sophia said...

My earliest memory is lying in my cot, crying bitterly because my parents went out. My mother came in and said, "Oh, look her pillow is wet from all the crying."

Badaunt said...

I have quite a few memories from the house we lived in when I was born. We moved when I was four, but I'm not sure which is the earliest.

The one I can place with any certainty is from when I had just turned three. I remember that because my brother had just turned five, and it was a big deal because he was going to start school. I remember the day he started - he got dressed up in his new school clothes, and I got dressed up the best I could, too, and then got terribly indignant when I discovered that he was going to school WITHOUT ME. It is a very clear memory. I felt cheated and wronged. Life was not fair.

I watched him walk away with my older siblings, and bawled my eyes out. I remember he held my older sister's hand, and looked back at me anxiously. He didn't even WANT to go to school. I DID. WHY COULDN'T I GO?

Badaunt said...

Incidentally, I hope you are feeling better. That was a VERY nasty cold/flu. I think I got off lightly.

Weary Hag said...

I love this post, Judy! I think my earliest memory was when my parents took us little ones to see the decorated windows at Macy's in Manhattan at Christmas time. I was about three. I recall being VERY nervous about 'losing' my mom's hand in the big crowds. This was also the first time I ever rode an escalator, and it frightened me to think that stairs could move; it just didn't seem right somehow.
The reason I say "I think ..." this was my earliest memory is because sometimes I surprise myself and have little flashes from earlier times ... though I'm not so sure those are more imagination than memory.