Just the other evening I took a trip back in time to "the old neigborhood," the one where my earliest memories would have occured . Mind you, I haven't been back to that area for almost 45 years, so I was somewhat anxious, not knowing how the old place had fared over time. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course there were the requisite McDonald's and Walgreen's on the corner where I recalled The Clock restaurant and Sam's Drugs. But the homes still looked much as I remembered them, and my old house was sporting new windows, and a stylish entry door with beveled glass. The tiny back yard was now surrounded by tall white fencing, so the little round gate that I remember trying desperately to open so I could "get out" was no longer there. But I was amazed to see that small patch of woodland at the end of the street where my grandfather and I would walk our dog, me carrying a miniature Winchester rifle and pretending to be Daniel Boone in the forested hills of Kentucky. Something that had not changed at all was the stone fronted library, which stood just around the corner from our house. I was about age four when my mom and I walked there for the first time. The first wonderful scent of those pages and ink is still stored in my olfactory memory, and as I breathed in the aroma of all those words, printed and bound so beautifully, it was like the breath of life to me. That was the moment I fell in love with books, and I have loved them ever since.
On the last Christmas we spent in that house, I got a little toy piano as a gift. I can clearly recall sitting on the bottom stairway, playing my heart out on that miniature keyboard. My parents must have realized that my desire to play was genuine (or they just couldn't stand the tinny sound of that toy once second longer!) for it was on my next birthday that a real piano appeared in our living room.
It's interesting to me that my clearest early memories all involve things that have become crucial to the center of my life today - books, music, even dog walking! I wonder if early exposure ignites our gentic proclivities, sort of "jump starting" our inherent talents and desires? Or is it that our experiences over the course of a lifetime tend to clarify those early memories, sort of flag them as important in our unconscious mind? Whichever way it works, I know those incidents I now recall so fondly became cornerstones for the things that I love, creating years and years of special memories for me.