My first memories were when we lived in Mobile. We moved there from Michigan when I was two and moved away the summer before first grade.
As a result of these being my earliest memories, some are like half-remembered dreams, or fragmented, or twisted and combined with other memories to form episodes that never really happened. And some are strangely hyper-specific. And some are just garden-variety, regular memories (but of course, memories are a very tricky thing).
When I was three, we flew out to San Diego to visit my Aunt Tootie and Uncle Dave. I have two strong memories of our visit.
Many houses in San Diego back up against small canyons. I remembered my relative’s home was on a canyon. And I have a clear image of seeing a mountain goat climbing around in it.
When I was twelve, we moved to San Diego, and until our house was ready, we stayed with Aunt Tootie and Uncle Dave in the same house we’d visited back when I was a toddler. It was a nice house.
But there was no canyon, which meant there was no goat. I couldn’t understand it. I could close my eyes and see it. I remained confused.
Until we visited Disneyland. And I went a on a ride that went past vignettes of the Southwest. And one of them was a gosh darn mountain goat, climbing in a misbegotten canyon. Yep, my memory was a ride at Disney.
Another memory, though, took place at Disney and was witnessed by family members, so I know for sure it happened.
As a kid, I used to stub my toes, stumble, and fall often (as an adult, too). So, when I walked, a lot of the time I looked down, at my feet, to see what they planned on doing. That day in Disneyland, I was trudging down Main St. when I bumped into somebody who was wearing a long blue dress.
I slowly looked up and took in a beautiful woman in a beautiful gown. Finally, I saw her face. It was Cinderella! My very favorite Disney princess.
She was as sweet to me that day as she was to all her animal friends.
Our next-door neighbors in Mobile worked at Spring Hill College. He was band director and she trained the majorettes. I thought she was the most beautiful, glamorous woman that ever lived. I idolized her.
One year for Christmas I received a pair of white majorette boots with tassels. I didn’t want to be a majorette, though. I owned a baton and had the skinned knees and bruises to prove the fact and make it clear I wasn’t majorette material.
At three, I had another career in mind. I was going to take my fancy white boots and become a go-go dancer. I wanted a mini dress with fringe, and I wanted my very own cage to dance in.
Finally, the memory of the day that lives on in family infamy. Half a century later I still catch hell for this episode.
It was a Sunday evening, and my mom had spent hours waxing the floors of the house. My brother was about eighteen months old. We were in the living room and mom was in the kitchen. I glanced over at my sibling and he had the bottle of floor wax upended and was pouring it down his gullet like a little hillbilly with a jug of shine.
Staying seated, I calmly, conversationally, almost as an aside, said to my mother in the next room, “Mommy, Buddy’s drinking floor wax.”
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