My Oldest Memory


I have this theory that people are drawn to the types of climates into which they are born.  Granted my theory resembles other less-concrete ideas, like cookie fortunes and paranormal activity – only believable if they apply to you personally.  In my case, my theory applies to me personally.  Born in the sunshine and near the ocean, my ideal environment remains shore side.  I like driving along the ocean, staring at the ocean, listening to the ocean on my white-noise sound machine, and, of course, taking pictures of the ocean.  And to be clear, I am mesmerized by the ocean, but somewhat less delighted by the beach – it’s a sand thing.  But just sitting and looking at the ocean tickles me aquamarine.

And I love the moon.  In all its phases, when hiding in the brightest daylight or illuminating a dark road, when it is waxing or waning, when it saddles up to a planet to make a smiley face, when it dominates the skylight upon rising, and during the less-frequent occasions when I get to see it set, I absolutely adore it.  I often wonder if the correlation between the moon and the tide creates a sort of bi-fortnight parallel in my brain.  Most likely, I love the size or distance each represents and how small I feel in comparison to both.

The Turtle

At some point in every person’s mind, when reaching back into the deepest consciousness, a thousand memories of the experiences of a lifetime are stored.  The brain – the world’s greatest hard drive – categorizes these memories and can cross reference them by date or time or place or people or emotions.  Say, for example, that I wanted to gather all of my great memories of the ocean.  I would retrieve a mental picture of a recent excursion with friends to Vero Beach, I would recall the boat ride to the Channel Islands with Son #2, I would think about the view of the Atlantic between Europe and North America from 30,000 feet, and I would reach all the way down to the bottom of the stack of memories and pull out my earliest recollection.

At less than two years of age, filed under both “beach” and “California,” the image of a moment exists in my mind when I try fervently to make sand fit into the shape of a plastic, yellow turtle mold about the size of a saucer.  For the life of me, every time I remove the turtle, the sand falls away from the mold and looks nothing like the shape in my hands.  In hindsight, I do not know if I feel frustration at the dry sand remaining faithful to its physical properties, or that an adult does not assist with the activity by adding water to my sculpting.  And so the pile of loose grains remains every time I lift the yellow plastic shell to my toddleresque dismay.  Perhaps my lack of success in creating the shape of the turtle in the sand explains my lack of excitement about the beach.  More likely this oldest memory resembles my fascination with the ocean, because whether two or twenty-two or forty-two, I try to wrap my head around how small I really am.

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