Earliest Childhood Memories

Most of my earliest childhood memories seem to be about a regular kid from an immigrant family. Yet there are some recurring themes that make these memories different. Early childhood memories are like a colourful tapestry rather than an ordered sequence.

Rebelliousness and Secrets

Here is a normal child behavior phenomenon: We make important decisions about life at the age of about 6. Naturally, at that young age, our life experience is limited. And yet we think we're pretty smart at that age. It's similar to the way a teenager thinks they know everything. Pause your reading for a moment and reflect on your own conclusions about life around that age? What were the positive results of that conclusion? What were the negative results? There's always an upside and a downside.

My mum mistakenly thought that, through her discipline, she was teaching me to be a good obedient child. But without realizing it, my mum taught me rebelliousness. And she taught me to keep secrets. Hey - that's what kept her alive - those two traits combined together - rebelliousness and secrets.

Want to find out more about my own early life decisions?
Click here on childhood role models to read about my first great adventure. I still smile remembering it.

How beautiful she was! My mother!

English is the ONLY Language

This earliest childhood memory involves my parents' passion to learn English. I wish it were less passionate because it would have been nice for me to speak a second language. Many children of immigrants speak a second language fluently. I envy them. Click here to read more about English with an accent.

Useless Babysitters

Our final babysitter was a chunky grey-haired woman with a raspy voice. She came only to do her knitting, certainly not to engage with a little girl and her baby brother. This nasty woman once called me a "dirty little Jewess". I never told my parents. I knew how upset they would be. Click here to read more about my babysitters.

Bad-Tempered Piano Teacher

As much as my parents viewed dancing as frivolous, they viewed learning to play a musical instrument as a necessary lesson in discipline. I now think there was a deeper unspoken reason. I think they believed that the ability to play could save our lives someday. Didn't the nazi's enjoy their Jewish entertainers? I had to play piano and my little brother had to play accordion. They were especially proud of him - an accordion is something portable.

Taken in the year 2020. I still see the strength in her face.

Unruly Classroom

Here's something that happened in early grade school that still brings a cloud when I think of it.

Crying is Complicated

When my mum talks about what happened during WW2, her voice becomes dry and unemotional, as though she's reciting something and as though she's totally removed from it. I watch her closely and sometimes I see her face quiver, on the verge of tears and then she hardens up again. I think, not many besides myself can detect these subtle changes in her face.

Reasons for crying are complicated. It could just as easily be from joy as from grief, from self pity or from empathy.

Our judgement of another person crying is just as complicated. We might see it as a weakness or we might see it as honesty. The situation influences our judgement. Crying is  usually forgiven at a funereal.

So, how do we react when the crying goes on for days after the funereal? How about for years after the funereal? Everything depends.

How does a child see it? Again, everything depends.

My mother cried often - and yet I never really got used to it. It was always discomforting for me to see it. I didn't know what to do about it - only that I had to protect her.

She still cries often nowadays but never for long. An unexpected flood of tears, like the dam broke, and then guiltily she wipes her face quickly with her hands, and incongruously she keeps smiling. Nowadays, I understand but, admittedly, I can't help feeling annoyed.

My son Michael growing into his flannel pajamas. No worries, my mom hemmed them.

She tells me that crying is a luxury. During her years in the Russian Partisans, she was afraid to cry. It was considered to be sign of incompetence. She was afraid all the time. Partisans sometimes got shot for incompetence.

Crying is complicated, because tears come from the heart. Hearts are complicated.

Click here for a couple of stories about my mother crying.

All of our earliest childhood memories

All of them, with their associated emotions, can get complicated.

Just browse through this site in no particular order.

We can connect. We survive. We heal. Sometimes there are scars where we've healed. That's OK. That's normal.

My son Daniel and myself with our dog, Shenanigan. Shenanigan is camera-shy.