THE QUESTION: What is your earliest memory?



Shabbona is a small village in DeKalb County, Illinois. The population was 925 at the 2010 census.

I almost grew up there.

My parents had been looking for a house, and came upon the one in this photo. Dad made an offer. They accepted. Everything was nearly a done deal…except that on the day of the closing my Father discovered there was no termite clause in the contract. 

And so instead I grew up in Oak Park, IL — a suburb of Chicago that is home to a large concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright houses, and the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway. Population 52,000+.

I have this hazy memory of sitting on a hardwood floor in that home in Shabbona, thinking how huge the room was – with absolutely no concept of the fact that we were planning on living there. I recall nothing else from that day, but that particular memory remains. And even at the age of 49 there are times I find myself wondering what would have happened if we had moved into that white house in that tiny, tiny town. Who would I be? What kind of work would I have found? What would daily life look like?

It’s only an hour away — yet it’s a whole different world. Perhaps one day I’ll take a drive out there. See what could have been…


I was pre-school age. The memory of it moves through my thoughts more like a slideshow than a movie. Fleeting images – they appear and then they are gone.

Mum owned a wrought iron trellis for holding small potted plants. It stood about chest height (well, adult chest height). It was a grayed white. I’m sure it was white white once upon a time and this was no doubt the reason why father was given the job of breathing new life into the curves and swirls of this masterpiece of engineering. He sanded it back, removed the rust that clung to the corners and set about giving it a new coat of white.

Ross’s father Joe with Ross’s brothers Paul and Steve.

I remember dad calling me over and placing a paintbrush in my right hand. The brush was dripping with a thick layer of paint. Dad placed his hand over mine and guided me in short, slow strokes. There is a memory of wonder as the grey disappeared under a layer of white with each movement of the brush.

I don’t recall too much more, except when the job was finished my father hugging me close and kissing my cheek. There was a feeling of accomplishment of doing a job with my dad. As far as I am concerned my father had begun to teach me to be a grown-up. I wish he was still around to continue my education.


My first memory

The bassinette swathed in white lace is in a dim corner of the room. The French windows are open to the twilight and I am sitting on a soft bed with my mother. A cool-warm breeze wafts through gauzy curtains.

I feel warm and wakeful. Calm and safe in an oasis of tranquility, a timeless moment that might last forever.

On the wall there hangs an oil painting of a night scene. A woman dressed in purple velvet, looks at the moonrise over the lake and the scattered trail of its beams on the dark waves.

I have no words but a preternatural awareness. There is nothing out of place here. No jarring chords out of tune.

A feeling of freedom and affection. The soft fortress of my mother’s arms, clad in palest green chenille.

As night falls, I drift into sleep.


My earliest memory / memories are flashbacks really.
I think I am around 4 years old and I can remember snippets from Kindergarten.
The banana table….sounds odd but we sat in groups and ate fruit and my favourite fruit was banana.
Being in a kitchen with other children , at Kinder again, and an adult was pulling something from the oven .
And a double-decker bus …..not sure if we went on it ( we probably did ) .
As I was a twin I think Kinder was an enjoyable place to go & probably why I can remember it.

Ooo….just had another…of climbing into my Mother’s gigantic blue and white Fairlane. ..complete with finned taillights. It was so big we couldn’t open the doors up properly in the garage.


Somebody died. We were in a basement, with tables and chairs set up all around. My mother said this happened. We climbed the stairs and were back on a Chicago pavement with traffic.

I was on a bed with a woman in a chair nearby. I looked out the window and saw a brown UPS truck. I was cornered by Siamese cats beneath a chair. All of these memories. I was a tiny girl, and I think that was my great-grandmother.

We were on a train heading across the southwest desert on the way to Los Angeles. We disembarked at one point and the sun was baking and bright. I had coffee with milk and ended up at Disney World where I had a handful of tiny animals. It was about 1973, and I was three.

I was babysat by a dwarf, and mesmerized by a Great Dane named Guapo.

I crept alongside a baseboard in a Florida motel room. There was a strange woman cleaning the room. I pooed in my pants.

I accompanied my mother as she canvassed apartments, campaigning for the Democrats in 1972. I remember the stairwells. 


NEXT WEEK’S QUESTION: Do you believe there is an afterlife, and why?

Posted by MMJ

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