I’m sure we all have some snatches of recollection from our early childhood. My mother once told me my first word was ashtray. My first memory of my father was of him cursing a blue streak. I’m not sure if this happened, but I can picture myself as a toddler, crying out in delight, reaching for the glass ashtray on the table next to Dad’s chair, accidentally knocking it to the floor where it broke into a million pieces, leaving my poor, dear father with a burning cigarette and nowhere to dispose of the ashes.
In the post I’m sharing today, Pete offers some bits and pieces from his own early childhood. After you read this post, maybe you’d like to share anything you remember from those early days, either here or on Pete’s blog. I hope you enjoy this trip down Memory Lane.
Recently, distant memories have started to appear in my mind, like watching an old newsreel clip for the briefest time. They are always childhood memories, mere snapshots of when I was very young, little more than a toddler. As I don’t remember many specifics before I started school at the age of five, those earliest memories fascinate me. They show that memory starts much earlier than I had ever considered.
One of my earliest childhood memories was my dad yelling, “Son of a bitch!” I must have been about three, and at the time, I thought he said, “sun of a bench.” I knew about the sun, that bright orb that shone in the sky, and I knew what a bench was, but what was a sun of a bench? I don’t know why I didn’t ask, and that probably wouldn’t have been a good idea.
Of course, as I grew older, I learned the meaning of that awful term. I didn’t find out what a bitch was, though, until I was in college and reading a work of horror fiction about a pack of dogs threatening a town. Until then, I thought a bitch was just a woman someone didn’t like.
I must admit that now, when I’m alone, I’ll occasionally say nasty words when no one is around to hear them. But over the years, I’ve learned to curve my profane utterances for fear of offending someone. I’ve also realized that unless a character in a work of fiction is prone to uttering profanities, such language isn’t necessary in writing. In fact, I find common usage of strong language in books distracting. I believe there are better ways to express anger and frustration than the colorful words I learned from my daddy at the age of three.
The above was inspired by a prompt from Ann Lauterbach in The Practice of Poetry, edited by Chase Twichell and Robin Behn, copyright 1992. Now, here’s a poem I wrote years ago about the first word my mother remembered me uttering when I was three. It was published in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver and has since been revised. You can click the Play button below to hear me read it.
ON BEING THREE
I barely remember that year.
Mother said my first word was “ashtray.”
My earliest memory is of Dad cursing a blue streak.
Could I have sent his ashtray crashing to the floor,
leaving him with a burning cigarette?
“Son of a…!”
What about you? How has the language you heard when you were growing up influenced you?
By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.