What’s Your Earliest Memory?

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April 12 2012 10:39 AM

What’s Your Earliest Memory?

Slate staffers think back.

Girl thinking.
Our staffers share their first memories

Jupiterimages.

To accompany Nicholas Day’s article about childhood memories, we asked Slate staffers about their earliest verifiable memory. (“Verifiable,” of course, is a loose term.) One Slatester swore he had a memory from before his first birthday; another remembers nothing before age 6. When is your first memory from? Were your parents “highly elaborative” storytellers?

Under 2

I seem to remember being in my father's arms in line in a crowded office and reaching up to touch an overhead light and scalding myself. My parents have told me that this actually happened and that in fact it's when I said my first word: After I touched the light, my father said "hot," and I repeated, "ott." If it's true that I remember it, that's a very early memory—I think I was less than a year old. But it's also quite possible this memory is apocryphal, implanted a year or two later when my parents recounted for me the occasion of my first word. If that's the case, then what I'm remembering is actually a mental image that I would have conjured when they told me the story, and not the event itself. Memory's a weird thing. –Will Oremus

I swear I remember being weighed on the small child scale at my pediatrician's office when I was maybe 1 or 1½. If that was a memory implant, then my next "first memory" is getting so homesick at preschool that I literally made myself ill and my grandmother had to come pick me up and take me to her house for the afternoon. Age 3½. –Anna Weaver

This may sound weird but my first verifiable memory was the layout of a house I lived in when I was a year old in Rochester, N.Y. I asked my parents about it one day because we moved around a lot and I could remember the house layout but basically nothing else. They were blown away because it was a place we left when I was 18 months old and never returned to or even had photos of. –Ben Johnson

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2+

My memory, which my mother has verified and which does not come from any photo, comes from July 1972, when I was 2½ years old. My family flew to England for a vacation in Scotland. On the flight over, an older boy on the flight played a game with me where he took and hid my shoes. It was really fun. I actually have a second memory of the same trip (less verified) of the field below the house we stayed at in Scotland. –David Plotz

When I was 2½, we went to Oak Island, N.C, for vacation with some family friends. I remember fragments of the drive, mostly because we were all crowded in an RV together, and I remember that on a beach walk one evening, my parents tried to get me to take a picture with a giant sea turtle that had washed ashore. –Rachael Larimore

Around age 2, I locked myself into my family's apartment/hotel room (not sure what it was) by accident. My parents had left momentarily and had left either the oven or stove on (not sure) so panicked about a fire starting (I had fallen asleep). I remember this, and them banging on the door trying to wake me up, but I think some of it also might have been filled in by my parents telling me about it when I was older in my childhood. –Rachael Levy

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