12 March 2013 (Edited from a version written on 16 January 2013)
One of the most important events in this writer’s life occurred many, many long years ago: my very first memory. The significance of this event is difficult to understate because it launched a whole series of memories from that time on, seemingly one memory right after the other, for the rest of my life. Before that point: nothing at all.
I was three years old, and my one-year-old brother, Nick, had something that I wanted: a baby bottle full of cherry Kool-Aid. What could I do to fix this problem? As I likely weighed twice as much as he did, and as I could climb stairs while he could not, a light-bulb illuminated above my little head.
Little Nick sat there oblivious to my intentions, innocently suckling his bottle, cheerful and content as he could be. With direct and simple intent of purpose, I walked up to him and snatched the bottle from his little fingers, a look of dumbfounded surprise forming on his face while a look of simple delight formed on my own. As he fussed and cried, I hurried up the stairs where he could not run after me, and I plopped myself down on the landing to enjoy the spoils of my victory.
I chewed on the rubber nipple of that bottle, drinking the sweet cherry Kool-Aid that squirted out in such small and frustrating doses, while I watched my brother with slight interest as he stood at the bottom of the stairs, one of his little arms propping himself up on the second step while the other hand reached up toward me, his fingers making futile gestures of grabbing his cherished bottle, his red and tear-streaked face contorted with despair as he stared up at me with his big, brown crying eyes. He just wanted his bottle, but so did I, and I would never give it back!
But then I heard my mother’s voice from the kitchen. She yelled in evident, high-pitched irritation: “Chris, give it back!” (I must have committed this crime very frequently in those days.) I pulled the bottle from my face in anger, and I made a split-second decision: Nick wanted his bottle back? Fine, I would give it back all right!
I pitched the plastic bottle from my perch on the landing, and it arced downward in the stairwell before it smacked against my little brother’s head, which only slightly deflected its course before it skidded across the kitchen floor into places unknown.
I remember my little brother’s shrieking wails of pain, but that is where my memory ends. I can only guess at what happened next.
This very first memory of mine demonstrates a theme that ran through my entire childhood: I was a mean little brat towards my brother. Why did I act this way? Either he wanted something that I had, or I wanted something that he had. Because I possessed the size and strength that he did not, I settled any disputes with brute force. (This only ended when we both grew to the point where we started to inflict serious harm on the other and against furniture and lamps, and also because my two years no longer gave me such a great advantage in a fight.
This first memory launched an ongoing process: after I experienced an event, it would sometimes lodge itself in my brain for me to recall at a later time. My next memory came several months later: a trip to Georgia. Others would follow. Memories would stick with greater and greater frequency as I got older, to the point where now I can almost remember everything that I’m supposed to. What caused this process to start anyhow? I can only guess that it was triggered by something in the cherry Kool-Aid.