My book group read a fascinating book this month–not an easy read, but it led to a lot of questions and a great discussion. “Austerlitz” by W. G. Sebald was the book, a novel ultimately about a man searching for his origins and his lost family, a child of the Kindertransport.
We talked about a number of themes in the novel and how it was structured and narrated. It had a dreamlike quality, but also conveyed the destructiveness of buried memory and lost history.
One of the members of our group raised the question–what is your earliest memory? She is a psychotherapist, and she said the stories people tell about their earliest memory often encapsulate all the issues they deal with throughout their lives.
I thought this was amazing. One of our group members had clear memories of being in the hospital at age three, and how frightened and abandoned she felt. Most of us had no clear memories before age four or five.
I started thinking about it, and realized I just had an impression of emotions before I was four or five (and a clear memory of the family’s cocker spaniel, Janie, who died before I was five years old.) Between four and five I learned to read, and I clearly remember the moment when I was sitting on Daddy’s lap, looking at the Sunday comics. He was reading them to me, and I suddenly realized I knew what the words meant. It was like being struck by happy lightning! I started reading to him, and he was so proud.
Hence my lifelong love of words and books. I felt warm, safe, happy and loved, and my brain was totally charged up. I ruled the world! What could be better?
What do you remember? What is your earliest memory? I hope it is warm and happy.