Thursday, March 5, 2015

Earliest Times: Sioux Falls 1957

I'm trying to recall the earliest things I can recall . . .

I'm talking about the year of my birth. But I was born late in the year, so I'm probably trying to remember things from--at best--1958, though more likely '59, '60, '61. Who knows. I don't.

But I do remember a little bit as a baby--hints and dreamy images and intuitive feelings formed into images. I think. I mean, I do. I do recall being in a high chair at the table being fed my formula. I ate a meat formula because I was allergic--as a baby--to milk, to Mothers Milk, I guess as well as regular milk. (Again, I guess. And who would I ask to find out for sure? There's no one left to ask--my mother would be the only one who could tell me and she's been gone for over two years now. My oldest brother would have no idea what I was talking about and I don't know if he'd even want the job passed on to him as the keeping of our anemic family lore . . .) But, yes, I can recall being in a high chair and a little bit about the kitchen.

I also can remember not being able to reach the kitchen sink. I had to ask for a cup of water. I had to get a little step stool to reach the sink. I don't know what age I was but obviously at least two or three or four.

This was--these tiny unskilled memories--all in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where I was born; where all my brothers and lone sister were born. Sioux Falls where I grew up until the age of five and then the whole lot of us--a family of seven--moved out west to Vancouver, Washington. My mother was a native of South Dakota--from Arlington, north a ways of Sioux Falls. My father was born in eastern Nebraska but moved right away to Red Oak, Iowa, which he considered his home town. In Sioux Falls I started kindergarten but did not finish because we moved. I hated kindergarten, hated my teacher, hated cutting strips of paper and pasting them together to make little pointless lanterns . . . I did love the elephant puzzle, though. Anyway, I hated it and moved away and then jumped right into first grade and have always disliked school, except college.

I can remember my mother rocking me at night in the rocking chair. I wonder if this memory, this intuitive feeling, ever leaves anyone who has been rocked by their mother in a rocking chair. I do feel as I age, as I grow ever distant from these opening moments of consciousness, of understanding the world, I wonder if I lose them. It seems I used to be able to recall more specifics from these otherwise blank years, that I still possessed direct access to, not just the actual memory, but the rather profound feeling that went with them . . . But, it seems, I don't have that any more.

I remember how, late at night and I could not sleep, or if I was sick, and my mother would put me out on the couch in the living room (we always called couches davenports--I don't think I know anyone who calls a couch a davenport anymore) with a blanket, I remember I had to keep the blanket all the way up to my neck. I had this idea that there was some skeleton creature that roamed at night and would--I don't know, kill you or some such--unless you kept the blanket all the way up to your neck and over your toes. This is an interesting imaginative fear put into mythical figure by a child and I don't want to even think about it any further than I just have . . .

Oh, there are plenty of memories from Sioux Falls, from the Hilltop neighborhood where we first lived. memories of people--the Bosslers, my friend Myron, Mrs. Cooney, others--memories of places like the big field of dandelions and all the bees among those dandelions, snow forts and the weeping willow tree and, of course, hated kindergarten . . . But those I don't consider the earliest memories, the ones I'm trying to touch upon. Oh, maybe they are, but that's not what I'm after here, today, now.

Jack Kerouac said he could remember being born. No, I don't believe that, but it seems like I used to have a good idea of very early memories, from when I was a baby, before I could walk. Not complete memories or ultra specific time and place recollections, but definite remembrances and direct sensations/inner feelings associated with those remembrances. Now? I don't know. I'm not even sure why I bother to try and know. In the long run--what's the point?

What good does it do?

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