Earliest memories

Since my 50th birthday is approaching, I’ve been thinking about milestones in my life. The events or decisions where life changed for me. I wonder how many I can think of and name?

My earliest memory is clearly my first conscious milestone. While there are events important to me that took place before my earliest memory, like being born, my older sisters’ births, or my parents meeting, the first thing I can remember must have been the start of my conscious, continuous existence, right?

Unfortunately, I can’t think of when my first memory actually occurred. And since memories are made in the same area of the brain as imaginary thoughts, I can’t be sure it even happened at all.

The memory is of me, standing near a swing set, in a fenced in yard. The swing set looms high above me, and the fence is taller than I am. I’m wearing a warm, comfortable, blue corduroy hooded coat. It’s cold out, gray skies, windy, and mom is approaching me. I believe, since I’ve talked about this with my parents in the past, that the memory is from when we lived in Seattle or the Seattle area briefly, and I must have been very young, 1 or 2 maybe.

That narrows it down to 1965-1966, I suppose.

I vaguely remember, later, the family moving to Kalama, Washington, and into an apartment building near downtown Kalama. That’s the first place that I thought of as “home”, and that I can remember the interior of.

I have a lot of memories from that home, but they’re discontinuous. That’s where mom found me, around age 3, reading the Sunday comics to my year-older sister, and not just looking at the pictures. In my experience, I’ve always been able to read; I learned how to do it at such an early age it just feels like something I was born doing. If I was 3 years old, then those memories take place in 1968 (since my birthday is so late in the year).

I also remember watching the Apollo astronauts launching on television in that living room in Kalama. I don’t know if it was Apollo 11, though, the first manned landing on the moon, which happened between 16 July and 24 July 1969, or one of the earlier non-landing missions, which started in 1968. My memory is that I was watching a manned mission, though, because I remember telling my mom that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up; what could be more natural than a kid named Moon, going to the moon?

Screen grab from Google Street View for Kalama apartments.
Kalama apartments from N 2nd Street, looking toward downtown Kalama. The one we lived in was below street level on the left side of the building. I think. (Click for full image)

The apartment was below street level on one side, and I remember windows placed up high looking in to the kitchen area. One October, as we were bringing in groceries from a trip to the store, mom pointed up at the window and me and my sister were shocked to see a skeleton in that window. I’m sure it was a kid in a costume, or dad playing a prank. It shocked me but didn’t really scare me, at least as I remember it now, 45+ years later.

I could probably draw a map of that apartment now, although I have no way of knowing if it would be accurate or not. I can find it on Google Maps, however, and its satellite images tell me that the apartment building is still there. It’s an L-shaped building, with a shared patio inside the angle of the L, and from the patio there is a stairway that leads down to an alley, and from there to the main street of Kalama, right next to the Post Office.

View from N 1st Street in Kalama, looking east. There is a staircase going up next to the green building, and that reaches the alleyway and patio for the apartment building. (Click for full image)

Hopefully dad or my sister will pop up here and fill in the details and dates of when we lived here, and correct my unreliable memory, or maybe confirm it. It felt like a brief time; soon after, we moved further away from downtown Kalama (which is tiny, even today) into a fourplex that felt like it was out in the country, and Google Maps tells me is 4.2 miles from the Kalama Post Office, or an 8 minute drive.

But those memories are for a different post.