Day 35 - First Memory



January 13, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year about gifts that each day brings.)


I began my journey, squirming inside a shadow cocoon, hearing pulsating echoes, sliding toward the light. Somewhere in between the shadows and the light, I was born. But I don’t remember any of this.

Life began and continued with a rhythm of senses—before memory kicked in. Is there some sort of switch when an instant activates memory—memory that will shape who we are and who we will become? Or does memory, like birth, struggle to emerge from shadows and slide into the light? Does the lens of memory begin as fuzzy focus and gradually slide into sharp edges that separate light from shadow? How do the ghosts of memory mingle with stories we hear? How much do we change to suit how we define ourselves? We never know.

My first memory slides into consciousness as a blur of movement with my paretns pushing muffled sounds toward my ears. Swooshes swirl about, temporarily imprisoning me in sounds and darkness. Hands lift something over my head, shut out light briefly until my eyes slide through the other end of a silk dress. My mother caresses my hair, twisting uniform Shirley Temple curls that once wisped out searching in all directions catching light. I am around two and a half or three years old.

I wait in the womb of the car with my parents. I was to be a flower girl in their friend’s wedding. The color of my dress does not register. Is that because I hadn’t yet learned the vocabulary of color or because my earliest memories were in black and white, shadow and light? Words drift in my direction, “Bonnie, if you’re good, we’ll give you that doll in the car window. Look.” Sounds from first memories drift in and out like a radio station on the edge of its reception area.

My eyes land on the rear inside ledge of the car. In an instant awareness and memory collide. My eyes study the scene while words swirl about my ears. I mentally turn down the volume to focus on the edges of light and shadow. A doll rests on the ledge. I notice only how light and shadow interact with the doll. Light from the rear car window falls on the doll, casting its face into shadow but illuminating tiny fingers reaching out from a hand. How the light chooses to bless some areas but hide others in mystery fascinates me. I remember no excitement about owning the doll but rather the power of light and the mystery of the unseen.

A sensitivity to light and shadow grew as I grew—how a scene could look entirely different because of the power of light; how lives slide through light and shadow; how edges never remain the same because light moves, how there are parts of us revealed to the world while other parts live in shadow; how memories are bright or dark; how people and things we love or fear change with the light.

Does a first memory shape who we are to become and how we will perceive the world, or is it merely an indication of who we already are?

My gift today is awareness of light and shadows.
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> DAY 36 In a Mirror Darkly

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