Feb. 12, 2017

How far back can you remember?

Most  psychologists and others who study the subject of childhood memory, say it is rare that we remember anything before three years old.  Well, I can go back much farther. I was born in 1935, and I saw the Hindenburg when it floated over Saint John, New Brunswick in 1936 when it came, or 1937 when it returned.  I’m guessing the latter since I was standing on my own.  I would have been two years old,  I can still see it in my mind’s eye,  almost blotting out the blue sky and filling my vision, a huge silver airship (although I didn’t know what it was then), and I recall vividly the emotions that rocked my tiny body;  shock, fear and awe.  It was so big and close, it seemed I could touch it.  Someone must have said, ‘Look up, Joanie,’ and I did.  And my mind snapped a picture of it that would stay with me always.

Tragically, the Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937 brought an end to the age of the rigid airship, The disaster killed 35 persons on the airship, and one member of the ground crew, but miraculously 62 of the 97 passengers and crew survived.

Another memory is of my mother doing a wash in the kitchen of our old cold water flat on Thorne Avenue.  Unknown to her, the washer was leaking and the water ran down into the flat of the woman downstairs.  She burst into the house and slapped my mother hard so across the face, it stunned me.  She was a big woman.  I railed at her as she went back out the door, beating on her bum.   I can still feel the flesh of that woman’s bottom against my little hands.   (That’s how tall I was.) My mother, a petite shy woman, was standing at the washer crying, and I was furious at the woman who had made her cry.   Even now, I can feel that rage and pain, the powerful emotions that accompanied the incident, and never let me forget it.  Another snapshot for all time. 

There are other events from my babyhood that I can recall, and each one is accompanied by a strong emotion.  Here’s another: I first knew the hot flush of embarrassment one day when I with my family in my grandmother’s back yard.  For some reason known only to me, I decided to pee in one of the little dishes in my tea-set that I was playing with and heard everyone laughing behind me and understood they were laughing at me.  Oh, the shame.  I feel it scald my face. 

 How far back can you remember?