Make a list of five childhood memories that immediately pop in to your head. Write about one of them. Why do you think you remember that moment?
1. I remember spending a lot of time with my mother. She and I were at home together pretty much all day every day until I went to kindergarten. I would follow her around the house as she did the cleaning and cooking and washing. At one point I was convinced that there was a group of animals—a fox, a wolf, a crocodile—waiting outside the window for me, and I made it a point to keep my mother in sight. They seemed reluctant to manifest themselves when she was around.
2. My father had a fairly elaborate woodworking studio in the cellar, with a table saw, a band saw, a drill press, a vise, and a big pegboard with the outline of each tool painted on it so that it was clear if something was not in the right spot. He had a motto: "A place for everything and everything in its place." He built a miniature workbench for me in the adjoining room and gave me my own tools: hammer, saw, screwdriver, wrenches.
3. I remember my grandmother, Lottie, coming to visit. She was my Mom's mom, and was maybe 80 or 85 years old. She was very slender, had pure white hair, and generally wore a heavy blue sweater even on the hottest of days. Sometimes she would call me over, open her pocketbook, and press a fifty-cent piece or a silver dollar into my hands.
4. We had a crabapple tree in the back yard, and when the apples fell my mother would gather up the apples, boil them, press the fluid through cloth, and "put up" crabapple jelly in glass jars. She would melt paraffin and pour in on top of the jelly to seal it.
5. My Uncle Ege used to run a music store in Hudson, New York, and each year at Christmas he would send each of us 78 rpm records. Two of my favorites was "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause," which my mother did not like. On the porch next to the living room we had an RVA Victrola record player that you had to wind up by hand. The needles for the record player were made of sharpened slivers of wood that you had to replace every couple of days when the point wore down.
6. My father had his den off of the dining room. All of the furniture in the den he had made himself in the cellar workshop. In the evening after dinner he would go into the den and work on his scrapbooks. He had a number of them, into which he would paste articles relating to hunting and fishing from the World, Telegram, and Sun. The Thornton W. Burgess animal books were also serialized in the paper, and it was a ritual for me to sit in his lap as he read the day's installment to me before I went upstairs to bed. He also had a wooden bucket with a top on it which held candy bars, and I was allowed to choose one each day if I had been good. I have had, as a result, a lifelong fondness for Hershey Bars, Three Musketeers, Milky Ways, and what used to be called "Forever Yours" but are now called "Milky Way Dark."
7. My first day at kindergarten I crawled under one of the tables and refused to come out. The teacher had to call my mother to come take me home. She was very angry with me and made me promise never to embarrass her like that again.
8. My closest friends in the neighborhood were Kenny Chester, who live across the street, and Peter Halstead, who lived up the street and went to the same school as me. I remember walking home with Kenny one day when we were about 7 and he was walking on top of a stone fence and fell off and broke his leg. And I remember one day when I started reading some of Peter's comic books, which he kept in his bedroom closet and was very fussy about, and he got angry at me and started chasing me around his yard waving a hatchet.
9. We had a large yard and an enormous gasoline-powered lawnmower that you had to walk behind to steer. It had a metal roller about 8 or 9 inches in diameter and levers on the handle that would make it stop or go. It was a big day for me the first time I was allowed to mow the lawn with it. One time it got away from me and wound up running itself into the bushes and stalling out.
10. We always had dogs. We had two house dogs, a giant schnauzer named Kim and an ancient infinitely patient black mutt, Fiddle. Then my father had three pointers he kept in the kennel under the garage: Zeke, Deldoon, and Sampson. In the fall he would take them to Billy Gladwin's farm in Brewster to hunt pheasant. When I got to be about ten years old I got to go with him a couple of times.
Reflection: I got the prompt from a colleague of mine and thought I'd give it a shot. Once I got going I couldn't quite get myself to stop at five. You start scanning through the memory bank and all kinds of stuff starts pouring out. I'm tempted to keep going, but since there would likely be no end to it I'll stop here and post this.