First Memories (1958)

My first memory is from the day I was brought home from the hospital after my birth. Actually, I was brought to my grandparents’ house.

I was being given a bath–on my back–on the dining room table when I began relieving myself. It was a beautiful golden stream… shooting up into the air and arching toward the kitchen before falling and splattering onto the kitchen floor. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen up until that time.

This wonderful yellow fountain drew my attention away from me and to my larger surroundings. There were two women to my left giving me a bath (my mother and someone else) and there was a woman in the kitchen (probably my grandmother), who turned to watch with concern.

I had no idea who any of these people were, where I was, or even that the urine stream was coming from me. I was just fascinated by it.

Obviously, I didn’t “remember” that this memory came from the day I was taken home from the hospital. The reason I know it was from then is because my parents once asked me about my first memories. I told them this story, and (with some surprise that I had remembered it) they told me when it happened.

I’ve always thought I’ve had a continuous memory from that day I was brought home from the hospital with no blank years (or “childhood amnesia”). Of course, I don’t remember every last thing that happened, just as I don’t remember mundane things that happened two months ago.

But I do remember things like having my diaper changed, being given baths, learning to crawl, being fascinated by gravity, learning to walk and talk, the first time I recognized myself in the mirror, and so on.

My next significant memory is from a few months later when my parents took me to a local cemetery–Cabarrus Memorial Gardens—at night to watch a light show at the fountain there. Here again I was relaying one of my early memories to my parents when they asked. I remembered it as some kind of fireworks in a cemetery, but they clarified that it was a light show at the fountain.

My Baby Book says I first smiled at 1 week, I was immunized against whooping cough at 3 months, and I learned to crawl at 4 months.

Here are some pictures of my first 6 months…

My next significant memory is of learning to walk and talk. My Baby Book says I stood up by myself at 9 months (November 13), and that I took my first step alone a few days later (November 21).

The main thing I remember about learning to walk was that I was getting along pretty fast on the ground crawling by then. I was a somewhat frustrated that learning to walk was slowing me down because I could crawl so much faster. In fact, until I got better at walking, I’d frequently resort to crawling when I was in a hurry.

Here are some of the pictures taken around then…

So, I was walking at 9 months and talking by 10 months (right before my first Christmas). According to my Baby Book, my first words were: Hey there, bye-bye, da-da, mama, Santa Claus, light, cracker, water, Pap-paw, car keys, and quack-quack.

My Baby Book says I got a duck, a top, a music box, a blue outfit, a corn popper, a toy train, a red wagon, some pop beads, a drum, “the five little pigs,” and “a little whistling engine” for Christmas. We went to my grandparents’ house on my mother’s side on Christmas Eve and went to my grandparents’ house on my father’s side for Christmas day.

Here are some of the pictures taken around my first Christmas along with a trip I made with my parents to the University of North Carolina to close out the year.