My earliest memory is of losing my shoe in the snow. It was a black shiny shoe with a little snap strap across the front. The snow was deep, and we were hiking through it, my parents, and their friends.
I tried to ask my parents about the shoe. Why did we not go back for it? How did I walk the rest of the way in the snow with only one shoe? Why don’t I remember being cold? But I don’t remember getting a straight answer. I realized it might have been a dream. To this day I can’t say for certain if it was or not. I was too young to know the difference between memories and dreams.
My parents are avid climbers. We hiked a lot when I was young. While I waited for my parents and their friends to climb, I would make sculpers (because I could not pronounce sculptures) out of carabiner chains. I would get sticks and hit the trees and rocks as hard as I could, until the sticks broke. I loved hitting things with sticks. I still do. I made beautiful formations out of snow and ice.
I remember learning about wormwood. It was magical. A mundane stick, when its bark was removed, would reveal beautiful designs intricately carved through it, like a magic wand. They were paths carved by worms as they ate their way through the wood. I thought it was miraculous.
I remember learning to flip the bird. My parents’ friend taught me, not telling me what it meant. He thought it would be a funny joke. My mom told me I was only allowed to do it to that friend. That was how I greeted him from then on. I don’t think he found it funny anymore after that.
I remember learning to whistle. Or trying at least. My parents would whistle, and I was jealous. I was on a giant boulder. Among other giant boulders, next to a giant cliff. Everything then was giant. There were trees and moss. And I told my mom I could make a bird sound too. So I hooted like an owl for a very long time, until I was sure no one was impressed. Then I crawled away and practiced whistling alone while my parents climbed. I think I got poison ivy.
I remember The Gorge. It was amazing as a kid. There were old ladders that we climbed down into a forgotten pit in the earth. There were abandoned mines, old broken things everywhere. Overgrown, forgotten. Ancient ruins, caverns. Wonderful. There was a buzzing power transfer station down there. I felt such awe for that amazing structure. It crackled and surged with power. You could feel it in the air, hanging above the trees and overgrowth, surging behind the concrete. To this day I love power transfer stations. A strange obsession. That majestic beast in the Gorge left an impression on me. Like some genie or demon or powerful god sleeping in that deep place. I’m sure if I went back there now the Gorge would not be the mysterious wonderland that it is in my memory. For one, it is probably developed now. Made more accessible to the common tourist. For another, I was small, and the world was new and grand, and so much that was awe inspiring and new to me then is sadly mundane now.
I remember a lot of long drives through the desert. I remember a lot of power lines. There are activists who lobby against power lines running through the deserts. The argument being that the lines cut through the scenes of natural beauty. I see where they are coming from and support their view, but deep inside I have a profound love for power lines. They are meditative, neverending, connecting everything together. Connecting our tiny desert town to civilization. Like a thread that the hero holds as they enter the maze, knowing it will lead them back home.
I remember I had a theory on one of those drives. That I was sure was true. I had decided that water towers were where we kept water, so that airplanes could come and load it up, then fly into the sky so they could put the water in the clouds. And that was how we got rain. I remember telling my dad this theory. I think he tried to explain to me how clouds and rain really worked. I am certain I did not believe him.
I had another theory. That bugs could tell the future. Because they were so small, and moved so slow, and were getting stepped on, swatted, and smushed all the time. Surely no bug could survive in the world without precognitive abilities. This was before I understood just how many bugs there are in the world.
My parents got divorced when I was very young. It is not one of the things I remember. I don’t even remember how I felt about it all. But I do remember two dreams. They made me sad and frightened. I am certain I had them around the time they separated. I remember them to this day. They are not dreams for sharing.
I do remember something, that I am fairly sure was not a dream. It was night time. We drove a long ways. We stopped somewhere that seemed like the middle of nowhere, a rest stop. There were tall stones or walls. Within them was a little grill or pedestal. There was a fake egg on it. There were adults. They were talking, they might have been arguing but I don’t remember. I do remember I was annoyed and unhappy, though that could have been unrelated. I think this might have been one of the first times my parents exchanged me after they separated. I am not sure though. This could have been some random road trip. I just remember I was confused, and I did not like what was happening.
I remember standing on the porch of the house we lived in when I was born. I was wearing purple overalls with no shirt, and scratching at my chicken pox.
I remember a lot of things about that house. My room was on the opposite side from my parents’. We had a fireplace. And an old wooden coffee table with a trough around the top edge that would get gunk stuck in it all the time. I would spend long amounts of time trying to dig the gunk out. I would sort my candy on that table. By color. Then I would eat them in order so that I had the same number of each color. Then I would eat one of each color until I was done. I would save the best one for last. Blue.
We had a garage that was bigger than our house. It was more like a warehouse, but we called it the garage. My dad made a climbing gym in the garage. The floor was lined with 2 layers of mattresses. There were huge overhangs and even a cave where one could climb upside down. My dad made it all himself. All my parents’ friend would come to climb there. They made a swing for me that hung from the ceiling. It was so long, and I could swing so far. But even if I fell, I fell on mattresses.
Behind the overhangs, in the rafters, was where we kept all our junk. Our attic. I remember it scared me. It was dirty and dangerous. I was afraid I would cut myself on a nail, or trip on one of the exposed boards. I never went back there without my dad.
We had a clock with the hands exposed. My dad would go to work in the garage and tell me he would come back and play with me when this hand pointed to that number. I would wait a few minutes and then I would get a broom handle and move the hands on the clock, then go to fetch my dad.
I remember cleaning my room. I was very proud. I even made my bed. I showed my dad. He too was proud.
I had a net full of stuffed animals that hung above my bed. If I poked the net from the bottom, they would all spill out the sides and tumble on to my bed. It was wonderful.
I had a red wagon. I would fill it with cinder blocks and put spiders and bugs in the cinder blocks and make a bug zoo. I had a lot of bug friends. There was not much else in the desert to befriend.
Except my next door neighbor. She was older than me. I am not really sure we were friends. But I would go over to her house sometimes. They had a pond. I would wander around their pond, even when they were not home. I tried to sleep over at her house once, my first sleepover. I did not like it. I woke up and went home in the night. Walked through the moonlit desert in my bare feet. Her parents called mine the next morning, worried that I was missing. It was all sorted out. I never slept over again.
I remember my parents reading me the Rainbow Fish. I loved that book.
I remember laying in my bed, my dad next to me, keeping me company as I fell asleep. Except I could not sleep. I kept tossing and turning. He told me that if I stopped moving I would fall asleep. I tried, laying as still as I could. But all I could think about was how uncomfortable I was. I eventually fell asleep anyway.
I remember playing with my toys in the tub. I had stackable plastic cups that I would pour water into and out of. I learned about volume. I had a Gumby and a pony pal Pokey too. They went on adventures during bathtime. I remember the first bath I took by myself. My dad told me I was old enough. I remember knowing that meant I was growing up, losing my childhood. I remember I did not like it.
I wonder sometimes how many of these memories are true, and which have been so distorted by time they are now just fancies.