My first memory is a vague, misty, scarcely-there vision of a railway line, a railway crossing and walking, walking, walking. I would have been around eighteen months old. I know it is a memory because when I talked about it with my mother, she expressed surprise. The scene I had described was where we waited for my brother on his return home from school. It was a non-event for the rest of the family and no-one had talked about it – ever. Thus, I know it is a true memory. So why did I remember this?
I have a theory that early memories occur because of the impact that the event has on the previously undeveloped memory cells. This impact I believe is usually traumatic – a fear, an event so horrible that the memory is permanently stuck. My next one was just that. Immense fear.
We were moving from Tamworth to Casino. I was 4 years old. We apparently had caught the train from Tamworth to Glen Innes. An old man in a Bentley picked us up at the station. None of this I remember but, etched in my memory forever, is the drive down from the plateau of the New England Tableland. The road snaked down the mountain; a constant series of sharp bends. To me it seemed as though we were travelling at half the speed of light. So fast and sharp were the bends that I was unable to stay seated on my side of the car; being thrown from one side to the other. No-one cared that I was crying and frightened.
So what was my first memory? Of what was I scared? It doesn’t have the feel of a scary memory so is my theory incorrect? It’s a pity that you can’t remember happy times in your earlier years. I’m sure I had many. Particularly the year that we lived in New York. Sadly, I remember not one minute of this and rely on photos and others to weave the web of stories that are also mine.
A memory is composed of the feeling, the emotion. Everything else is somewhat incidental and colourless in comparison. How can you put the colour back in a memory? If you are lucky you will have kept a journal. If not, photos are a good means to recall forgotten detail. Other family members and friends (although they won’t have your memory of the event ) may be able to bring back some of the colour. The emotional memory is purely yours.