The yellow curtain

Over the past several years of interviewing people here on the site, I’ve developed a few go-to questions – things that I really enjoy asking. Among other things, I like to ask people about the circumstances surrounding their births, and their very first memories. It doesn’t always happen, but, every once in a while, when I ask someone one of these questions, they’ll turn around and ask the same thing back to me, and I’ll tell them about how I was extracted from my unconscious mother with forceps, or share this very distinct memory that I have of laying in a crib, looking up at a yellow curtain covered in severed horse heads, fluttering in a warm summer breeze. Here’s one such instance of the latter, taken from an Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interview with my friend Jeff Meyers, shortly after he abandoned Ann Arbor for Palo Alto. [If you haven’t read that interview, by the way, you really should. It’s still one of my favorites.]

The thing is, as much as I’ve shared this particular memory of mine over the years, I was never absolutely, 100% certain that it was real. As I couldn’t have been more than about two years old at the time, I always kind of doubted whether or not I could trust my memory, even though I could remember the scene very clearly in my mind. And I’m pretty sure that, when I asked my mother several years ago whether or not there really was such a curtain hanging over my crib, she told me that it wasn’t yellow, but blue. But, not too long ago, during a visit back to Kentucky, to help my mother out for a few days after hip replacement surgery, I found evidence of the curtain in question, in an old photo album that I don’t recall having ever seen before. As there’s no reason for the photo to have been taken, let alone be kept in an album for nearly a half-century, finding it was kind of eerie. I mean, who takes a photo of just a crib and curtain? And how strange that I should find a photo of just the very thing that I’d remembered, after wondering for so long whether or not my memory could be trusted. But, there it was…

I know, in the whole scheme of things, this “Rosebud” moment of mine isn’t all that terribly important, and I feel a bit weird for sharing it here, as I can’t imagine it will matter to anyone but me, but, for whatever reason, this is what I want to write about tonight – this first memory of mine, laying in a warm patch of sunlight, happily watching the curtain flutter int eh breeze, while listening to the sounds of summer outside.

Here, for those of you who care, is the photographic evidence of that curtain, which apparently really did once exist in Monticello, Kentucky.

So, what’s your first memory? And, more importantly, do you have photographic evidence?

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on finding Rosebud.

    My first memory is of my baby sister being brought home from the hospital and being told not to touch her.

  2. Axe
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    FWIW, your regularly asked questions are better than Bernard Pivot’s.

  3. Bike666
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    And matching crib sheets!

  4. Kim C.
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I remember being in my crib in our house in Indiana. It was nighttime and there was a thunderstorm. Every time the room lit up with lightning, I would see a black-and-white rocking horse on the other side of the room. Years later, wondering if my memory was real, I described the layout of the room and the horse to my mom, and she confirmed it. Funny what sticks.

  5. Mark's Mom
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    All sewn by mom!!! And see, I told you that you were a happy baby!

  6. Lindsay Garinger
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    mine is my mother changing my diaper when i was like between 1 and 2. i had been hiding behind the rocker to poop and once i came out and she smelled it she laid me down to change it. i whined a little bit because it hurt how she held my legs but she didnt understand why i whined.

  7. Iron Lung
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    UBI might have given you a clearer memory, sparing you a lifetime of uncertainty and pain.

  8. Janette Rook
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    My first memories are of laying next to Annette (we always figured out how to get in the other crib) and listening to the soothing, rhythmic sound of her slurping on the satin corner her pink cloth doll blankie

  9. Kevin Sharp
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I remember being in my crib. It was nighttime. My mother had one of those dressmaker’s forms in the corner. In the moonlight the figure frightened me. I kept standing up in my crib and making noise. My mom would come in and admonish me. I was young enough I could sort of point but couldn’t tell her what I was afraid of. No photographic evidence unfortunately.

  10. Erin O'Leary
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    One of my earliest memories is playing at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother had been diagnosed with brain cancer. I remember her white skin (almost geisha white), her jet black hair, and her silky robes. I was around 2 years old; she passed away before my sister was born and we are 26 months apart.

  11. Claudia G.
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I have the memory of being able to see through the heat grate to the living room. About 1 1/2 years old. I also remember moving six times between ages 1 1/2 to 3. Remember outdoors and interiors. Scary times indeed.

  12. Demetrius
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    A while back I told my mom that I vividly remembered an apartment we had lived in when I was about 2-3 years old. She told me it was unlikely I could remember back that far, and that I must have “thought” I remembered from seeing pictures.

    I took out a sheet of paper and sketched the rooms, windows, locations of furniture, etc. I told her I even remembered the texture of our old couch, and the pattern of a particular bedspread. She was amazed, and agreed the only way I could “know” all that is to have remembered it.

    I suspect this particular period may be so vivid for me because that’s when I was learning to walk … and toddling around hanging on to furniture, etc.

  13. TeacherPatti
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I must confess that I pictured the severed horses’ heads way differently.

    I have a memory of being in a stroller at the zoo. It was bright and sunny and hot and somehow I knew I was at the zoo. No idea if it’s real but the feeling of being warm and safe and loved is wonderful.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    My dad had me on his shoulders at the Jersey Shore, jumping in the waves. A sneaker wave came through and knocked me off. I remember churning around for a bit and then his hand grabbed my arm under the water and pulled me up, sideways and coughing. I was under probably less than 10 seconds, but it seemed like slow motion. After he brought me to shore and wrapped me in a towel, he reassured me that someday in the robot future, there would be UBI and all human worries would be over.

  15. Iron Lung
    Posted September 14, 2017 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    My first memory is of feeling guilty and sad because I didn’t like a present someone had given me.

    Life sucks from the minute we are born. It is a fantasy to believe that toddlers all feel loved and at peace all the time, if ever. If that is the case, why are they screaming and crying in every waking minute?

    Life is awful. The best thing we can do is get it overwith as soon as possible.

  16. Jean Henry
    Posted September 14, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    That’s telling, Pete. Life is a struggle and a gift. Appreciating it is hard for many, but not as hard as it is for you it seems. I’m sorry about that and I’m glad you’re still here.

  17. Jean Henry
    Posted September 14, 2017 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Heard this today and thought of this post:

  18. Sad
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know Clinton was a big UBI person. Now I see why a few of you keep bringing it up.

  19. IR
    Posted June 3, 2021 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I remember laying on my back, in what I would realize was a baby carriage later. The thing extending over my head, was folding awning. People would come by so often to make the blanket snug around me. I felt too warm and would kick it off, but they would immediately tighten it again. All I could do was kick and remain on my back. I remember thinking that I could not kick it off until they walked away, or they would just make it tight again. That worked. I remember learning that I had to wait till they weren’t looking. It was very bright and so it must have been outdoors when that happened. The brightness was like sun. That was my earliest memory. I have two other memories that came later, up till the age of two. Those three were my earliest. One is quite cherished for it was of my time spent grandfather, just the two of us, and he later passed away when I was 2 years old.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] Mine too. I have this distinct memory of laying in my crib, watching a yellow curtain flutter in the breeze on…… What do you remember about your […]

  2. […] It’s funny how many people that I pose that question to respond with answers about their cribs, myself included. It kind of makes me think that we should invest in making cribs […]

  3. […] said here on the site before that my first memory is being in my crib at about 2 years old, when we lived in Monticello, Kentucky, watching the breeze blow a yellow curtain on a summer day […]

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