Posted by: bitsydungaree | June 10, 2008

Remember When…

What are your five earliest memories?

In his exploration of how the family dynamics of birth order shape how we develop as individuals in The Birth Order Book, author Dr. Kevin Leman mentions that he always asks his therapy patients to list between five and ten of their earliest memories. Leman believes that, though sometimes seemingly random, there is always a reason behind why these are the memories that have stayed with us and that they tend to be quite revealing.

So what are mine? In the order that they come to me:

1. Taking my baby brother for show-and-tell in kindergarten.

2. Having to wear the kindergarten “emergency underwear” after peeing my pants at my desk when my teacher wouldn’t let me get up during a “test” to use the bathroom. Later that afternoon, we had to play Duck-Duck-Goose on the playground, and I remember being so terrified that my skirt was going to kick up while I was running and everyone would see that I was wearing boy’s Scooby Doo briefs.

3. Passing a note during third grade from the boy I liked to his friend who sat across the aisle from me.

4. My sister running laps around the public pool shouting “Betsy loves boy-I-had-a-third-grade-crush-on” while I cried and ran to the pay phone to call my mom.

5. Breaking my ankle playing Monkey-in-the-Middle in the second grade and having the yard duty call me a “cry baby” when he had to carry me to the nurse’s office in tears.

It is surprising, as I let these come to me and I write them down, that only one of these is a happy memory. I wonder if this is normal. Perhaps it is. Perhaps we remember the things that really shake us, where the pleasant moments all blend in together. If so, that seems unfortunate.

Happy or sad, it is, however, interesting how revealing these memories are. It is possible that I could have fashioned an even more telling list if I had asked myself the question, what are the experiences that shaped me as a child? but I very much wanted to follow Dr. Leman’s exercise of simply spouting off the first memories that came to me and then looking for the reasons why those were the ones most readily remembered.

Interestingly enough, if I had searched my mind to answer the question posed in the last paragraph, I don’t think I would have come up with any of the same experiences. I probably would have said things like Mary and Sam being born and appearing in my first play. Why weren’t these the first things I remembered? Why did those five moments jump into my mind before anything else?

Well, let me explore…

1. Taking Sam for show-and-tell. This being my first memory is almost laughably obvious. At the time, I am sure that taking my new “toy” in to share with the class was more about how cute and fun he was, but I don’t think the reason this moment sticks out in my mind is because of what an adorable baby my brother was. I have always tried so hard to nurture my younger siblings that, I suppose, it is to be expected that my first memory would be one of being proud of little Sam. I think this is also telling because, in this experience, the thing that made me special was my brother. And much of my life has been this way, trying to collect excess coolness from Mary and Sam. There have been countless times when people have openly embraced me who wouldn’t have given me the time of day if the introduction hadn’t begun with the words this is my sister.

2. Playing Duck-Duck-Goose in Scooby Doo undies. Apparently this was pretty traumatic considering that, the same year this happened, a tumor ate through my skull and I am only remembering that now, while the horrors of schoolyard humiliation leapt to the surface second on my list. Like bringing Sam for show-and-tell, this seems almost too obvious to delve into. As long as I can remember, I have always been extremely insecure, and I am sure that experiences like this one didn’t do much to help. At twenty-five, I am only just beginning to be able to embrace who I am without the constant concern of whether or not others will accept or reject me based on my choice of panties.

3. Passing a note for my third grade crush. This is where things get random. Much of the impact of this seemingly forgettable moment probably comes from the rush of doing something I wasn’t supposed to — a rare occurrence in those days! A lot of it, though, I think is an elementary school representation of what, as adults, we might refer to as being always the bridesmaid, never the bride, always busting my butt to further someone else’s agenda. Something that I have to really watch in myself is a tendency to make ridiculous sacrifices (like moving to Ohio) for people I care about, even if it means letting go of what I really want. And, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to paint a picture of myself as some sort of selfless saint. Quite the opposite, really. I go above and beyond, often, out of insecurity, to make sure that the people I am sacrificing for really need me. Now that I think about it, there is probably also an element of doing something I would not normally do to impress a boy, something that I’m pretty sure we ladies all know about.

4. My sister exposing my secret crush at the public pool. Another memory of total humiliation. No wonder I’m so freaking insecure!

5. Being called a “cry baby” when I broke my ankle. Aside from being memorable just because of how shitty this was, I can see traces of this in the real need I have for my emotions to be met with understanding and acceptance. I struggle a lot with fears that others will perceive my feelings as somehow unreasonable or invalid and, though I in no way attribute that solely to this event, I would imagine that there is probably some relationship there.

It’s time for me to shower up before Bible study, so that’s all the self-analysis I’ll do for today, but I would challenge you to ask yourself the same question. As I was, you will probably be surprised both by the things you remember and by how much they reveal about who you are today.

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Responses

  1. So many memories, so little time…

    1. Running in to the corner of a counter and my dad sawing it off out of anger

    2. Watching Mr. Rogers right as an earthquake happened.

    3. Riding my aunt’s great dane

    4. Needing to use the restroom in preschool, but not wanting to because there were no doors on the stalls.

    5. Being the nap monitor in kindergarten. i got to wake everyone up!


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