Earliest memories are strange . . . it’s hard to know how much is genuine memory, how much is complete fiction, and how much was genuine memory, now clouded by fiction. I have several candidates as my first memory, all with varying levels of plausibility. The earliest memory which I can, with more than 90% certainty, claim as genuine is me slowly pouring a can of freeze-dried coffee into the toilet, and gleefully watching it swirl around the bowl while I flushed it down. Even now, twenty-five years later, I can recall with total clarity the simple beauty of the almost completely black coffee contrasting against the brilliantly white porcelain. We forget to appreciate those small pleasures and tiny details as we get older. Everything is new to children, so everything is noticed. Children are truly awake.
Over the weekend Dharma Jam and I were visited by our four year old niece, Maddyloops, and took her on a bus ride. She asked questions about all sorts of things I had never noticed before, including asking what the little red squares are for? Red squares? Is the kid drunk? I looked all over, and couldn’t see what she was asking about, and almost chalked it up to her imagination when I noticed the bars bearing small, red, square, stop buttons. We were sitting at the very back of the bus, and she was noticing inch square buttons from eleven feet away. This made me very aware that I am still half asleep and not noticing all the tiny wonders. Even in the big book it is said “Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”.
I also admire the intense obsession children have when their mind is set. Back when I was four I decided that I wanted something sweet to eat and both my parents were busy doing whatever it is that adults usually entertain their time with . . . doing taxes or watching the news . . . we lived just down the street from a tiny convenience store, and Eris must have sent St. Bugs to prod me into action. I knew I didn’t have money, but I knew also there were other ways to obtain things you wanted. I didn’t have money, but I did have a Bugs Bunny halloween mask, and I knew what that meant. Donning the mask, I ran down to the store, thrust out a plastic water gun at the person behind the counter, and said what I knew would get me what I wanted “YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE!” – at least, this is what people on Uncle TV said when they wanted something.
“Uh, OK . . .” said the counter person. “What do you want?”
This was something I hadn’t truly prepared for. I knew I wanted something, but didn’t know exactly what. I looked around, sizing up the possibilities . . . Popeye Cigarettes caught my eye. The old kind, with the red tip you could pretend was the heater. That was what I wanted. Like Zaphod Beeblebrox said – If property is theft, then theft is also property.
“These.” I said, snatching them.
“Take ’em” he said, already reaching for the telephone.
Before I even stepped a single sneaker into our backyard my mother was at the door, raising holy hell. Something about me being four and wandering dangerously close to an extremely busy road, leaving the house without asking, without taking a parent, stealing . . . blah blah blah . . . so many rules. In reality she was appalled that I had got out without either of them knowing, and knew that word would get around that people in our house let children come and go as they please.
So, what is the point of all these children stories I can almost hear you asking? I don’t know. What is the point of anything? Somewhere in there is a lesson, think for yourself, schmuck.