Posted by Juliane Samara, 1 February 2014
Most of my childhood memories are really just snippets here and there.
I have been asked once or twice in the past what my earliest childhood memories are. I have to say, there are only a few clear ones. In line with my memory theory, most have probably fallen out of my left ear as I have crammed more information into my brain over the years.
I think my very first memory is when I was in kindergarten at age 4. This memory is perhaps the most precious memory I have of my father. Every night that he was home (which was not often as he worked two jobs as a mechanic and a semi-trailer driver as well as studying) he used to sit on the lounge and read Blinky Bill to me after my bath and before bedtime. We didn’t have the original version (I was born 30 years too late for that), but I had borrowed it from the school library and remember it being a big red book with a yellow title. I don’t know how often I renewed the loan that year, but it took us a very long time to get through it. Or maybe it just seemed that way. After all, a year in the life of a 4 year old seems like forever. It might actually have only been a few weeks.
My second memory is a little more hazy – that is, the timing is hazy – the memory is perfectly clear. It’s a memory of my dad building a cubby house in the back yard. I suspect it was around Christmas time when I was 5 or 6 years old, as I remember it being warm weather and we were able to play outside and watch the building progress. The cubby house was, I thought, amazing. It had double doors at the front, gabled ends and was painted white. Inside, my dad had built a little toy stove, there was an old wardrobe to store the cooking utensils in, a small table and chairs, and it was big enough for four of five of us to play happily for hours. I remember that as I grew older, I used it as a hiding place whenever I ran away from home after getting into trouble. I’d steal a blanket from the linen cupboard, pack my suitcase (remember the old masonite school cases?) with a book and a change of clothes, and out I would go. I could get to the top of the wardrobe, set it up as a bed, and lie there for hours reading my book. Until I got hungry. I suspect my mother always knew exactly where I was – mothers are good like that – but she never once came looking for me. I wanted her to.
My third childhood memory is just after my baby brother was born. My brave mother had four children, each only 18 months apart. So I was only 5 1/2 years old, and I vividly remember two things about this event. First, we were home alone with dad, and he had three small girls to look after. We thought this was great – he didn’t know how to plait our hair, so we were allowed to wear it out or have pigtails. Second, I remember going to the hospital, being lifted up and peering through the window at the nurse pointing to my baby brother in his hospital crib. Anthony had a head full of dark hair, and I fell in love with him instantly.
Lastly, I remember my sister Helen’s fifth birthday party. I was already in school – as an April baby I had started when I was only four years old – and her birthday is in October. My mother had set up a table on the back lawn, all the neighbourhood children were there and I was allowed to come home from lunchtime to join in the party.
Most of the rest of my childhood memories are really just snippets here and there – my brother burying our matchbox cars in the sandpit (and then denying it), the Christmas that my dad made matching rocking doll cradles for me and my two sisters, and the time that my grandmother held me under the ocean waves at Casey’s Beach to cure my middle ear infection. It never worked, I thought I was really drowning and was terrified, and I still remember that I was wearing a little pink one piece swimsuit with two heart shaped cutouts with blue piping edges on the front.
Sometimes I wonder what the earliest memories of childhood my own children will have. I must remember to ask them one day. I really hope they have retained more than I have and will be able to share them with their own children.