Most people remember events tied to a strong emotion, smell, or some other sensual detail. That’s especially true of first memories. Mine is a box of kittens my father brought home. I was two and a half, maybe three-years-old. I don’t remember why he had a box of kittens, where they came from, or whether we kept them. What I remember are the sensations–the fur, the claws, the smells, the sounds, and how they squirmed when I reached in to touch them. I remember laughing.
My whole life I thought I was a cat person. Dogs annoyed me. A cat purred and snuggled. Dogs jumped up on you with dirty paws and needed to be taken outside regularly. Unfortunately, I married a dog person. He grew up with dogs, loved dogs, always wanted one. I delayed and delayed, but that only works so long. Eventually he got his dog, which quickly turned into two dogs, both Great Danes. When people ask how that happened, I tell them I made him wait too long–the dogs grew larger and multiplied. You know, like unattended problems.
Turns out I’m a dog person. The bed is never empty. The house is never lonely. Bring on the slobber and the face-licks.
Question is: Would I have been a dog person earlier if my first memory was a puppy? That’s not an idle thought. We shape our sense of self from the stories we tell about the things we remember.
Want more examples of first memories. Check out www.yourfirstmemory.com, a blog featuring videos of people telling their first memories. Interesting project.