Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Four: Earliest Memory -or- The Teal Creation

What’s the age at which humans begin to retain memories of their own lives? There’s all kinds of research out there that suggests that the answer is anywhere from a few months old to the second grade.

Myself, I have memories of events from my kindergarten and first-grade life which I think are quite clear.  Clear, and, as it happens, just a tiny bit “oh, Rob…” … but I was five or six, and so had not attained my current level of wisdom. So it may be appropriate to cut me a break. (Also, appropriate to mask your chuckling at the invocation of my wisdom, please.)

For example, I recall the time when nearly all of my kindergarten class walked back from our playground recess time to the church building in which our kindergarten was based. I and a couple of my friends looked up from where we had been playing, and noted that we were the only people on the playground. We didn’t panic; but we did think we should head back to the church. So we picked ourselves up and headed over in that direction. One small challenge: to get to our classroom, we first needed to cross a rather busy street.

Yes, I’m kinda soft-pedaling the fact that our teacher had managed to account for only 85% of her class before leading them back to class. That’s mainly because it isn’t the point of this cute story. This is:

Drawing on my years of observing the big world around me (again, science suggests that was anywhere between a week and maybe three years’ worth), I stood confidently on the sidewalk next to the street … held my arms out straight to either side, palms out … and signaled for the passing cars to stop. I’d seen crossing guards do it; so it must work.

What I don’t remember is how we got across the street to our kindergarten class; but I subsequently earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, so I must have made it across, alive, somehow. What I do remember is all the times, as a teacher myself, that I have triple-checked to make sure all my students were on the bus at the end of a field trip, before the bus driver was allowed to so much as let out that clutch. (Anyone can learn from any situation; good leaders always do.)

That, however, is not my earliest memory. I’ve got a couple from when I was probably three years old that are so hazy that I don’t really count them. Here’s the memory that I instantly thought of when I read the writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 4: “[What is your] earliest childhood memory?”

I believe I was four years old. I know I was in pre-school, because it was Take Your Dad To School Night.  (It might, back then, have been called Father-Son Night; *that* I don’t remember because I didn’t sign the permission slip.) One evening, dads accompanied their kids to their pre-school classroom and spent probably an hour or so walking around with hands clasped behind backs, hmmm-ing and ooooh-ing at all the fun things their kids were proudly showing them. “This is what we do in school!” All the dads were far too large for the little bitty chairs that their kids sat in every day; there was a lot of bending down to see what all the excitement was about.

Me, I made a beeline for the carpentry area. I’m not sure whether current pre-schools have such a thing – who in their right mind nowadays would offer four-year-olds the chance to hurt themselves with hammers, nails, saws, hand drills, all that stuff? Not real ones, certainly. But I have a distinct memory of creating for my dad a piece of artisanal carpentry magic.

I was very proud. I think my Creation may have been two pieces of wood nailed together and painted (oh yes, there was paint indeed) (THAT was pre-school). At age four, I was not likely to produce work that would be immediately carted off to the Smithsonian Museum. But I was thrilled with how my Creation came out, for two reasons.

One reason was the color of the paint. That’s actually the second-strongest portion of this larger memory. It was a sickly blue-green that might best be described as the result of a head-on collision between teal and grey. I think it’s only used in government buildings now. But it was all over those two pieces of wood, that night.

The other reason that memory is a very happy one is that I was making that weird Creation for my Dad. And he was not just any dad: he was a carpenter. That’s not all he was, for sure; but I had watched him make things and build things with hammers and nails and saws and hand drills. Yes, this was a very specific, very tangible “just like Dad” moment … and he was right there, watching me be try to be just like Dad.

Just about any time I can be try to be just like Dad, all the way to the present moment, well, that’s a good thing to achieve. No matter what color my Creation ends up being.

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May 4, 2016 - Posted by | blogging, family | , , , , , , ,

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