My earliest recollection of our family is watching my sister Peggy being hit by a car as she ran across the street during a church picnic. They say that strong emotion reinforces memory and maybe that is why I remember this event so clearly, like a short clip of movie footage of a little girl in the street over hung by trees, running in her summer dress and a fender coming into view before me. I can also recall sitting in the kitchen on another day while my mother put ice cubes on my bleeding head. Peggy and I had been playing in an ash pile behind the shed and for some reason she was chopping the ashes with an old rusty axe. She was swinging the axe when I bent over to mess about in the ashes, and I took a blow to the back of the head. I remember screaming bloody murder as I ran to house, and my mother setting me down and laying ice on the open wound. I remember the white kitchen and the blood running out over the white like I was some else watching. And I don’t remember the pain.
Of course, when you are one of the young ones in a family, much of your memory is created for you by reliving events as they are told around the kitchen table. But one pure, distinct and powerful image that I carry from than great journey north is the memory of one stormy night when the rain came down heavy and hard. We made camp in a field where the skeleton of a barn stood gray and sinister in the night. We lay down on boards laid across the floor beams – remember being wrapped in quilt and listening to rain hammering the roof and dripping steadily off the eaves. There is no more warming feeling than being wrapped in warm blankets and listening to rain on the roof. In the morning I remember sitting in the cold wrapped in my blankets watching my mother make oatmeal and coffee on the Coleman camp. We ate our oatmeal on an that little island of boards lay on naked floor joist on that dark wet morning in Canada, when I first realized the great adventure that our family had undertaken that spring of 1958.
What are your earliest strong memories that your carry with you everyday?