Just the other day, I was reminded of the importance of the little memories of childhood. My wife and I were telling some people about an event back when our daughter Alexa was a toddler. Wed come up to Orlando to visit Sea World; it was a kind of special visit as wed also brought our friend Kelly along. She was then in high school, and the trip was part of a reward for doing well on her report card. I know, pure unadulterated bribery. Hey, it worked; shed passed her classes. Anyway, we stayed at a nearby hotel for the night. The next morning, our friend Bill, who worked at Disneys Animal Kingdom came by to have breakfast with us. He was the stage manage for the Lion King stage show, and he offered to sign us into the park! He could do that for up to three people; so we only had to buy one ticket for all four of us to go.
Needless to say, the girls were delighted. Once in the park, Bill told us to go to the VIP entrance for the show, and he had the staff -- they call them cast members -- seat us in the VIP seating. As he had a meeting to go to, he wasn't the stage manager for that show, but he made sure it was memorable for us. During the show, the cast members made a point of paying particular attention to Alexa, and they even made her one of the kids they pulled out to participate in the show. We knew that this would be a memory that would burn bright for Alexa, in the coming years.
It made me think what were the special memories of my early years? Not just a first day of school or learning to ride a bike. No, those early early memories of my toddler years; those memories that are so dim as to be almost dreams, and what impact had they had on me?
I remembered sitting in my dads car in the parking lot of the church where I went to day care. He helped me to blow my nose, and I was touched by his patience and compassion; I couldn't have been more than three. I remembered my pre-school, and getting my first report card I got gold stars for: washing my hands, standing in line, and putting my things away. Yeah, I know, simple stuff, but to a child of those tender years, it was major league. I also remembered playing outside in the playground of the pre-school. We used to play cops and robbers. I wasn't either; I was the alarm bell on the jail. When someone escaped, I shouted out a ding-ding-ding alarm. For me, it was such the important and responsible role.
I remembered being terribly sick with the flu; so sick that I dreamed I was floating down the stairs. I awoke to find my mother sitting on the edge of my bed. She mopped my forehead with a cold washcloth, and told me everything would be all right. I felt protected and safe. I remembered learning to tie my shoelaces and them promptly coming untied! Yeah, that took a bit more practice, but oh, the feeling of great satisfaction when I finally did it.
I remembered going to the local community theater for my fourth birthday, and being amazed by it all. I couldn't believe it; adults actually played make believe too? I painted chairs, just like my dad had taught me, and shocked the adults helping me. I painted two chairs to their one, and didnt get any paint all over me. After that, I helped the lighting man plug in the cables for the lights. I got the job because I was so tiny I could easily fit in the light booth, which was quite the shoebox! Standing before the huge, at least from my point of view, circuit board, I wondered: what would happen if I stuck my fingers in the little holes?
I didn't do it.
Days later, my parents brought me to see the show: Any-BODY for tea," and we sat right down front. After it was over, I turned around in my seat, stood up on it so I could see over the back and looked at all the people sitting there. It was then that I knew that I didn't want to be there; I wanted to be up in front of all of these people.
One day, my daughter will look back on the dim memories of her early childhood, and contemplate their impact on her psyche and life. Interesting how the tiny threads of life can paint the broadest color in the tapestry that is our lives. Maybe the snowball metaphor is more appropriate. Those events of early childhood may be incredibly small, but over the many years of our life, they grow huge, massive, and almost unstoppable as they hurtle down the slope of our mind.
What events shaped your life?
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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