Childhood Recollections and Other Trauma

Do you ever find yourself thinking about your earliest recollection?  While it’s not something I dwell on, I do find myself recalling mine from time to time.  Or at least that moment in time which I believe to be my earliest memory.

I’m laying on my side on the kitchen floor of the modest house where I spent the first five years of my life.  It’s summer.  I know this because the door which leads from the kitchen out into our single carport is open.  I’m peering through the bottom half of the screen door, looking over the short wall which forms the far side of the carport.
The carport is empty, which most likely means that my Dad is at work since our light blue Buick station wagon, circa 1954, is nowhere to be seen.  Let me tell you, that vehicle was a real land barge.  I remember it well, the original “family truckster!”  But back to my recollection.  I’m intently studying the various patterns made by the lines of mortar and brick on the side of our neighbor’s house.

And there my recollection comes to an abrupt end.  Probably due to my falling asleep on the cool linoleum floor on that particular warm summer afternoon.  As a youngster, and even to this day, I’m not one who is likely to pass up an opportunity for a quick and restorative siesta when the mood is right.

It’s interesting that whenever I recall this scene in my mind, I always see it in black and white.  There may be some deep psychologically significant explanation for my remembering this moment in monochrome or perhaps it’s simply due to the fact that these events occurred in the era before the advent of color television.  Who knows?  The fact remains that I almost always envision events from the 50’s in black and white.
One memory from this same period which I do recall in vivid color involves a cake that my mother made.  In 1957, or thereabouts, my father and I were stricken with chicken pox at the same time.  Not an especially big deal for me at somewhere around the age of five, but much more serious for my father who would have been twenty-eight or so.

We were sequestered to the isolation of a single bedroom where we rode out of our shared illness, surviving largely on chicken noodle soup.  We’d contracted the pox in early February.  I know this because my mother, in an attempt to bolster our low and quarantined spirits, made a heart-shaped two layer cake for us on Valentine’s Day.  She covered the cake with icing that, in color, was somewhere between red and pink.
Don’t ask for an explanation because to this day I have none, but for some reason when I caught sight of that sickly pink icing, I, along with everyone else in the sick bay, was immediately assaulted by a tidal wave of nausea.  Bad timing, that!  And certainly not the reaction that my loving and very considerate mother had been expecting to receive for her labors.

The event was evidently seared into that area of my brain which controls appetite.  It was months before I could bring myself to eat cake of any variety.  The very smell of a recently baked cake was enough to send me careening through the nearest available exit in search of fresh air.

Thankfully, through sheer force of will, I managed to overcome the debilitating effects of this trauma.

I can now state categorically, that I have hardly ever met a cake I didn’t like!

And may it remain so.



9 thoughts on “Childhood Recollections and Other Trauma

  1. Isn’t it interesting that the older we get, the more focussed we can be on a moment from way back. I too can remember basking on a sundrenched linoleum floor, listening to Children’s Hour on the radio; my mother in the background, preparing my father’s supper.

  2. I think your writing style is tremendous and I also look forward to the assortment of topics you choose to expound upon. As a late 50s “Boomer” myself, many of your thoughts hit the mark. Please keep up the great work!

  3. You brought up an interesting point that I’d never considered before: whether or not my earliest memory is in color. I, too, recall an under-5 scene in the original family home, namely petting a neighbor’s fluffy black cat on the front stoop. The fact that the cat was black doesn’t really assist me in solving the mystery but it’s true that I can’t pick out any other particular color in the memory. I recall the brightness of the sun but not the temperature, so I really have no idea of the season.

    The emotion is clear enough, though–delight in petting a cat and a sense of privilege that the cat came over to me while no one else was around to share a moment. Also, a feeling of peacefulness because all my attention was in the present moment and on the joy of petting. That’s something that I’ve returned to after many decades of distractions: focusing on the joy of something pleasurable to make the moment last.

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