Today’s bloganuary post (“What was your favorite toy as a child?”) ties into something I’ve been tossing around in my heart — the concept of first memories and their impact on you and relationships.
In my first memory, I was clutching my favorite toy, a stuffed puppy, and screaming for my mother.
I was somewhere between two and three; old enough to stand up, but still in diapers and clinging to the bars of my crib. I had puppy clutched in one arm and my chubby baby fingers wrapped around the wooden rails.
It felt like I had been crying forever. I needed something, though I don’t remember what, and I’d been needing it for awhile. My bedroom door was open; I remember screaming harder, the rawness of my throat with every wail, the taste of the salt in my tears, the way my eyes stung as I fisted tears out of them.
I paused; I heard footsteps on the stairs. Finally.
Through my enormous tears, I watched as a woman with long, curly hair climbed the stairs — a slender women with a bright smile who was most assuredly not my mother.
I gripped my stuffed puppy tighter, and screamed louder. I knew that woman–her name was Kathy, and she was a friend of my mother’s. My mother must have been visiting with her downstairs; mother had sent Kathy to fetch me in her stead.
I don’t remember ever getting to my mother’s lap in that memory, though I must have at some point. My mother was home; I remember hearing her voice. So where was she?
In retrospect, it makes logical sense: my mother was morbidly obese, struggling with her body’s failure due to her own thyroid condition (likely undermedicated), and at not point in my life was she in the best of health. I was probably getting too large to safely carry down the stairs herself. It was probably not long after that event that my parents replaced my crib with an actual bed I could get out of myself.
I understand my mother a lot better these days.
Still… What an interesting first memory: the deep, resentment I experienced that she hadn’t come for me herself. This memory potentially colored and explained the rest of my relationship with her.
Sometimes, I wonder if that’s why I was so attached to my little stuffed puppy. I wonder how many of those instances I may have forgotten so that my love for my mother was so remarkably cool in comparison to how I felt about my other parent. I wonder how that first, core memory shaped my turbulent relationship with her; if it were (unfairly) the cause of our issues, or if that core memory is a result of her choices–choices I understand far better now, dealing with my thyroid condition the way that I do. Choices I might have made myself, if I didn’t have access to the internet, credible information, and doctors with up-to-date medical training.
Did she even have a chance at a healthy life with what doctors know then, with what limited access to information she had then?
I wish I could tell her that I understand her better now… Why she acted the way she did. How her choices weren’t truly her own, and that I understand, now, why she chose herself so much more often than her family. It doesn’t excuse every part of it it, but now, at least, I understand.
I wish I could tell her that I’m proud of how hard she worked as a social worker, to help families make good choices and keep their children with them during the hardest moments in their lives. That was no small feat, working thyroid or not.
I also understand that I must make different choices than she did in life. And that they will be harder ones than people who are completely healthy… but that’s okay.
I wonder if our first, core memories impact how we approach friendships, relationships, romance… or if, perhaps, they explain why we pick and cling to our favorite toys.
But, that’s an explanation best left to Freud for now. 😉