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Author Topic: What's your earliest memory?
Sean Monahan
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Noemon got me thinking about this from another thread...

What is your earliest memory?

Mine is at age three. My parents went on vacation to Hawaii, and left me and my 4 month old sister with my grandparents. I slept in my uncle's childhood bedroom. From where the bed was sitting, you could lie on it and look out the bedroom door and see the front door to the house. That's my whole memory at age three - about three seconds of me lying in the dark, looking out the bedroom door, and seeing the front door to the house.

I wish I knew why that memory above all others was the first one to stick.

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Paul Goldner
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No, its no good. It was a long time ago.
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ketchupqueen
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I was about 2. Maybe a little less. Just barely out of my crib.

My parents were screaming. I climbed up into my bed (boy was it big-- though it was actually small from my perspective now) and put the covers over my head. I could still hear them. I went and closed the door. I climbed back up and put my pillow over my head. I could still hear them.

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Itsame
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I was 2, my parents told my siblings and I that they were getting divorced. I can still describe the furniture arrangement in the room.
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0Megabyte
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Hmm. That reminds me of other, less pleasant and/or neutral memories from when I was 2 and 3. (I mentioned a lot of memories in that other thread referenced before, as I hadn't seen this one yet.)

To make things short, I never did understand why my parents fought so often when I was little... I do now, and now it's even less pleasant.

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adenam
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At almost 3 I had pneumonia and was in the hospital in a big oxegyn tent. I remember bouncing on the bed with my brother when he visited and then having an asthma attack and getting yelled at for exerting myself.
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BandoCommando
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I have a memory of flying in an airplane and coming in for a landing through clouds and thinking our plane was underwater. I had just turned one when I took my first airplane ride, and didn't take another trip by plane until I was about 6. I know people will say that the likelihood of me remembering anything from when I was barely a year old is slim, and I agree, but I stand by my word.

My next earliest memory is unwrapping a tricycle on my third birthday (4th birthday, I guess; anyway, the one on which I turned three).

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breyerchic04
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I specifically remember meeting a second cousin at my great grandpa's funeral, I was 18 months old (she was 4 days old and her grandma hadn't even seen her yet). There are other things i remember that my mom and dad can't put a specific date on, but were likely about the same time or earlier. Like a storm coming through and a tree falling on our porch while we had the door open.
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maui babe
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I remember standing outside a door (probably the bathroom) waiting for my mother to come out. I was singing a song I made up as I sang, and I still remember some of the words. I also remember our German Shepherd (probably a mix) being poisoned and for a long time, I thought the compost pile was his grave. We moved out of that house before I turned 3, but I can't pin it any closer than that.

I clearly remember my 3rd birthday in the new house, and I remember moving into the new house, I think in the fall (my birthday's in January).

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Vadon
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I have two really early memories, and I don't know which was earlier.

1. We used to have a swimming pool (Up until I was three, because we moved by then.), and I was an early 2 years old. I remember being in a floating thing with my mother near by, but I was watching my brother come towards me on a police-car floaty tube.

2. I would sleep on the stairs, and I remember sleeping one time on them. It was a long-stranded brown carpet. I continued my habit of sleeping on stairs until i couldn't fit on them anymore.

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Bella Bee
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My earliest memory is really random - I remember that the lining of my travel-cot when I was a few months old was printed with pictures of cherries.
It's a snapshot memory - I'm lying in what I recognize to be my grandmother's kitchen - I can see the cupboards over the counter so I must be on the kitchen table in the cot.
I think that the cherries are pretty, so I try to pick them off the cloth with my fingers and then get angry and upset when I can't seem to reach them.
Maybe it was the first time I'd got angry or something.
I think it's probably real - described it to my mother once and she told me that the cot really did look like that.

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ketchupqueen
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Bella, I have a memory kind of like that. I used to dream it and I described it to my mom. She said it sounded like was at the house we moved from when I was 10 months old-- on moving day. I'm still not sure how much of it I remember, and how much I "filled in."
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krynn
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mine is either my mom trying to get me to go across the street to meet the new neighbors who had a boy the same age as me and i was crying and didnt want to go, or my dad showing me instructional soccer videos. i know for a fact that the one with my mom was when i was two, because that is when those neighbors moved in. btw, the kid and i have been friends ever since (24 years ago).

my dad brainwashed my whole family to love soccer and play it very competitively growing up on club teams and we were all referees as well, including my mom.

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RivalOfTheRose
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I was about three and my dad was trying to zipper my coat, but it got caught in my neck.
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scifibum
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Does anybody know any science on early memories? It's completely clear that my three year old boy has long term memory: he remembers names of people he only sees once every few weeks, he associated dropping my wife off at the O.B. with getting ice cream at the Dairy Queen up the road even though we only did that once before six months prior, etc.

Yet most or all of his current memories will be gone, or inaccessible, by the time he grows up. While things from age 5 and 6 will stick with him forever, most likely.

What's going on in the brain? Is there maybe a change associated with literacy or cognitive changes that affects the way the information is stored? (Like writing to a NTFS partition instead of a FAT16 - the data simply takes on another format and our brains lose backward compatibility?) Does this serve some biological purpose?

It seems odd that most of our memories start at an age several years past when we start remembering things.

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Lyrhawn
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Mine is of a family trip to Disney World, but I don't remember how old I was. Two or three maybe.
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Paul Goldner
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Man... totally wasted reference. shame on you all [Smile]
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scifibum
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I suspected it was a reference but didn't want to be the one to ask. I give. What is it?
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Lostinspace
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I have a memory of my brother picking me up and putting me in my crib. I moved out of my crib at 1 1/2 so it had to be somewhere before then.
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Lisa
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Well, I remember -- vividly -- some of the dreams I had when I was 2. I remember my mom making decorations for my father's 28th birthday, and I was 2.5 then.

But one of the dreams I used to have, and I had several recurring dreams (nightmares, mostly), was of looking up and seeing a cluster of lights above me. And three enormous faces would come in and stare down at me. I called them "witches", and I'd have this dream every time I slept on my back. It basically trained me to sleep on my side. It wasn't until many years later that I realized that the dream was probably a memory of my birth.

My guess is that it had to do with the trauma. I was basically stillborn, and they had to resucitate me. Back then (1963), they would knock a pregnant woman out with ether and yank the baby out with forceps. They gave my mom too much ether and killed me. But as the line from Holy Grail goes, "I got better".

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Paul Goldner
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scifi-
its from rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead.
Guildenstern asks rosencrantz what the first thing he remembers is, and rosencrantz can't remember. Then guildenstern remembers that they were summoned by the king.

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Sharpie
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Lostinspace, one of my earliest memories is of letting my sister OUT of her crib. I remember the complicated thing I had to do, standing on the mattress and pushing up with my hands on the rail and then hooking my foot under to push the freeing-thingy. She's two years younger than me, so I was somewhere younger than three, but not much. I suppose she had to be old enough to climb out and crawl.

I do remember earlier things than that, but they get muddled in with stories that family members tell, like when I put my carrots under my napkin and claimed they were "all gone". I mean, I know I did that, I remember it, but my mom thought it was funny and also told the story. So how much of it is real memory?

I still hate carrots.

I remember that house with the carrot story, though, and I remember specific things about it, short people things, like the space under the cabinets and how big the bathtub was, and those memories don't seem to come at all from stories. Oh, and the lines on the ceiling (cracked paint?) that were very scary.

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Sterling
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Wow, my early memories seem so benign, compared to most...

My first really strong memory is of being three, walking into the living room, and saying "Hello, Papa." to my father.

But I had more deja-vu-ish fragment memories when I first came back to the house we used to live in in Seattle and saw the staircase (I used to scoot down it on my rump when I was two.)

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Lostinspace
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quote:
Originally posted by Sharpie:
Lostinspace, one of my earliest memories is of letting my sister OUT of her crib. I remember the complicated thing I had to do, standing on the mattress and pushing up with my hands on the rail and then hooking my foot under to push the freeing-thingy. She's two years younger than me, so I was somewhere younger than three, but not much. I suppose she had to be old enough to climb out and crawl.

I do remember earlier things than that, but they get muddled in with stories that family members tell, like when I put my carrots under my napkin and claimed they were "all gone". I mean, I know I did that, I remember it, but my mom thought it was funny and also told the story. So how much of it is real memory?

I still hate carrots.

I remember that house with the carrot story, though, and I remember specific things about it, short people things, like the space under the cabinets and how big the bathtub was, and those memories don't seem to come at all from stories. Oh, and the lines on the ceiling (cracked paint?) that were very scary.

That is like I remember the cars in the grove at my grandparents farm. The funny thing is my grandparents moved off the farm when I was 2 so I don't know how I could have that memory since I doubt I would have been allowed to play in the grove when I was 2 years old.
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Teshi
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quote:
No, its no good. It was a long time ago.
[Big Grin] Rosencrantz.

Oh, please note that I got this reference before the discussion about it, so Paul, all is not entirely lost.

I have no idea what my first memory is. I remember being at nursery school where there was a wooden play structure. Not sure if this is real or imagined, but I'd swear that the play structure tilted and I righted it, preventing calamity. Like I said, I could be inventing hero moments. But I'm fairly sure that the room and the structure is a real memory.

Later than that I remember being in a very minor bumper crash coming down the hill from another later nursery school on an icy day. I cried and got yelled at for it because my mother was trying to exchange information with the man she had slid into.

Both these memories are 3 or 4 years old, though. Everything else could just as easily be a dream.

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dean
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I remember being put into the car late at night (I had been asleep) and sitting in a reclining position and looking out the window and up at all the lights and they were so pretty and shiny that I just stared and stared. I don't know that that's my earliest memory, but it feels very early to me. My earliest memories I can put a date on are all of my grandfather. My grandfather died just before my third birthday. I remember going to his house, and him calling me by my older sister's name and telling me to get my special chair. I remember seeing him hang up his swimming trunks to dry. I remember that I had a pair of sunglasses and I showed them to him, and he showed me how to wear them low on my nose and look over them like a sexy starlet and my mother saw me doing that, and pushed them back up to the top of my nose.
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Catseye1979
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I remember my grandma's dog Fudge. My mother said I wasn't yet 2 when they took Fudge to be put to sleep which I also remember, so those memories would most likely be from 18 months to 22 months
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BelladonnaOrchid
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My first memory was of my Mom changing my brother's diaper on a blanket on the floor of his nursery. She gave me the closed dirty diaper and told me to go run and put it in the trash can. I remember holding my nose with one hand and running down the hallway and putting it in the trash can-arm held out in front of me the entire time.

I must have been somewhere around 2 1/2, based on the age of my brother in the memory and the height I remember being.

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GinaG
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I was between 2 and 3 and was in the hospital for croup. I remember being in a crib in a big room with other kids playing, and my grandmother and mom coming to visit me. I remember being scared of the dark and the croup tent I had to sleep under. And I remember that the mean nurse would NOT take the crusts off my toast. *mad*
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Sean Monahan
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I think my second oldest memory is of me and my mom in some kind of pottery shop. She was carrying me on her hip while she was talking to the proprietor. She pointed out a vase on a platform or counter we were standing next to. I thought she was telling me to touch it, so I reached out and lightly pinched the lip of it between my thumb and forefinger. My mom then said, "No no, don't touch," so I pulled my hand back. I remember wondering why she told me to touch it in the first place if she really didn't want me to, but I must have misunderstood her. I have no idea how old I was, but I was small enough for my mom to carry me.
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Sean Monahan
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
Does anybody know any science on early memories?

scifibum, I've been trying to find something I read on this, but I can't find it. I think it was either in The Ancestor's Tale or The Language Instinct. But I remember reading that when the brain develops in the womb, many many more neural connections are created that won't actually survive into adulthood. Basically, everything is connected to everything. For example, we all know that the signals from your right eye go to the left side of your brain, and the signals from your left eye go to the right side of your brain. But when you're born, your brain is wired so that the signals of both eyes go to both sides of the brain. Within the first couple of years, these superfluous connections are culled out. I remember reading that this culling happens within about the first 3 years of life. I remember wondering if this is why few memories survive from these years.

edit: grammar and clarity

[ January 08, 2009, 01:08 AM: Message edited by: Sean Monahan ]

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TomDavidson
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I have pretty much no memory of anything before four years old, I've realized. I have anecdotes from before this time, but I believe my mind's filled in details that other people have told me.

I recall watching the Reagan/Carter election with my father. I remember a fishing trip with my grandfather, during which I caught a larger trout than he did. And I remember a lovely Spider-Man birthday cake my mom made that, because red and black frosting back then tasted like crap, was completely inedible. I was five years old for all these things.

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Reshpeckobiggle
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This is a great thread.

I don't remember the womb, but my earliest memory is of remembering the womb, or maybe something earlier since it seems like the womb wouldn't be bright. I was lying under a white sheet, feeling the folds of the sheets under me, and feeling reminded of something similar but still not the same. Or maybe I was just remembering some other time I was lying under a sheet.

I don't know how old I was at the time, but I'm pretty sure it was before another memory I have. I was lying on the floor between the kitchen and the living room, examining the metal divider on the floor where the carpet met the linoleum, and I remember thinking that that was the very spot where one room became the other. My mom says that could only have been the trailer we moved out of when I was 2.

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ricree101
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The earliest memory I have that I can definitely date is from when I was three and a few months. I remember asking my mom to play, but she said that she couldn't because she was pregnant with my sister. Since my sister was born in late April, I'm guessing that this must have been sometime late march or early april.

I can kind of sort of remember some things earlier than that, but in all of the other cases I either can't date them very well or they aren't substantial enough for me to be sure that they are an actual memory. This one stands out because it is still fairly clear and the context makes it very easy to give an upper and lower bounds within a couple months.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Sharpie:
I do remember earlier things than that, but they get muddled in with stories that family members tell, like when I put my carrots under my napkin and claimed they were "all gone". I mean, I know I did that, I remember it, but my mom thought it was funny and also told the story. So how much of it is real memory?

I have a bunch of those. Including one involving eating a napkin (soaked with melted ice cream).

But the earliest memory that I can be sure of the date and that it's actually my memory is from when my brother was born -- so I would have been about 2 1/2. I was mad that I wasn't allowed to hold him. I had a cold, and they didn't want him to get sick. But they'd been promising me this new baby for months, and now he was finally here, and I couldn't hold him because of something I couldn't even do anything about?!?

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Orincoro
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Is it weird not to have a definitive first memory? The first thing I can *sort of* grasp on to is being in the back yard of my first house in San Francisco, and my mother cutting a rose for a gift to someone. We moved into a new house before I was 2 years old, and again, I have a very vague sense of being there for the first time- but it's so remote and nonspecific that any of the possible details are completely blank. Plus, I've seen the house so many thousands of times since then, that it's quite possible that all of that recollection is fabricated. I have heard often that people's "first memory" is actually a vaguely defined construction based on a photograph, or a repeated story, or something of that kind. You can never convince someone that what they remember is not, in fact, a real memory, because in the mind the distinction is not present.

However, personally, I am of the opinion that most of my childhood memories are garbled reinvisionings of things my parents told me about later. I can only support that by saying that a) I have a very small store of memory before the age of 10, and b) my parents are not particularly communicative when it comes to things like: "what was our house like, what was I like?" I have a rather disconcertingly vague memory in general- I have met people in various situations who seem to know me quite well, and I can neither recognize their faces, nor identify in any way my relationships with them. This has happened with people I have met in my adult life as well.

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Amanecer
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My first memory is of my second birthday party. My family decided it would be fun to have a surprise party and everybody jumped out from behind something. I burst in to tears. The memory I have is of feeling blind terror.

My second memory is running out the door naked and laughing when my mom was trying to catch me and put a diaper on me. I'd guess I was 2 or 3.

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Farmgirl
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I don't know how you determine "first memory" when so often there is no way to attach a date/time stamp to the event/memory. At that age we really don't always put our thoughts in chronological order.
I can't name an earliest memory, because I know too many of my memories have been influenced by later stories/images/photos/conversations which may distort the true memory, or make me believe I have a memory that is really just a photo or something I recall.

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Christine
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When I was a teenager, I told my dad that I remembered a time when he had brought me to work. I described the dark room where he worked (as a photographer) and also noted that he had brought a sack lunch. He paused for a minute, then told me that the only time he had taken me to work was when I was 6 months old and that a few months later he changed to a job with a security clearance that would not have allowed him to bring me to work.

Now, at 31, I remember remembering the experience, but I do not remember the original experience directly.

Memory is a very complex thing. [Smile]

I agree that I am now influenced by things others have told me and have created memories of memories -- my own or others'.

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Traceria
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For me, it was of wandering into the laundry room of the apartment of where my aunt and uncle were living in Atlanta. We'd gone to visit them. Not sure, but it was probably somewhere in the 18 months to a year neighborhood.

Lisa mentioned a childhood dream... I had one at about the age of five where I was being chased by Harry the monster from Sesame Street through a maze. I woke up screaming. Jabberwocky also took up residence under my bed a few years later...

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kmbboots
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The earliest memories I can positively date are of my maternal grandfather. I remember sitting on his lap and playing with his hair - he had a brush cut. I also remember taking the ferry across Lake Michigan to go to his funeral when I was just three.
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romanylass
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Watching Star Trek, when I was three.
Pathetic, huh?

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advice for robots
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My earliest memory is of walking (toddling) past the door to a garage or storage room and seeing a toy in there I had played with and enjoyed. I had wondered where that toy went. Later I realized it was someone else's. That was probably when I was 1 1/2 or so.

I went walking down the street in San Bruno with my big sister when I was 2. We stopped when we saw a couple guys sitting on top of some porch steps. They both had long hair and were smoking. My sister whispered, "Let's go home," and I whispered "Yeah," and we turned around and went home.

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Lostinspace
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quote:
Originally posted by romanylass:
Watching Star Trek, when I was three.
Pathetic, huh?

Why would that be Pathetic...to me that is heroic!
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Mama Squirrel
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My earliest memory is of the divorce court judge asking me if I wanted to live with my mommy or my daddy. I was about 3 1/2.
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katharina
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My earliest memory is from my third birthday - I remember the playground equipment and the cake my grandmother made me.

But it is fuzzy, and there isn't anything really concrete until I was six or seven.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Mama Squirrel:
My earliest memory is of the divorce court judge asking me if I wanted to live with my mommy or my daddy. I was about 3 1/2.

That's really sad.
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kmbboots
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Slightly later, but still before 3, I remember getting to pick out the kitten I was going to get for my third birthday.

[ January 15, 2009, 05:04 PM: Message edited by: kmbboots ]

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Eaquae Legit
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I remember being sick with the flu or something and being curled up on the old chocolate-covered sofa in the Old House, and my mother quilting my Hello Kitty quilt on top of me because I was cold. I was probably about 2-1/2. No older than 3, since we then moved to the current house. I also remember house hunting, and moving day. I've got a lot of memories from when I was three and older, but I think the Hello Kitty quilt one is the oldest.
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Uprooted
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I no longer really have this memory, just the memory of the memory -- but some years ago (I was an adult) I described to my mother the interior of a house I remembered. She said it was my grandmother's house; this is the grandmother who moved in with us when I was 2 1/2.

Weirdly, I haven't retained any memories of the house we lived in from my birth until that same age. Although that may have been by choice; my mother told me that after we moved into the new house (the one I remember growing up in), then went back to the old one, I was noticeably upset and afraid we were going to have to stay there.

My reliable memories really start when I was four years old.

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