What’s Your Earliest Memory?

Snapshots of life at home.
April 12 2012 10:39 AM

What’s Your Earliest Memory?

Slate staffers think back.

Girl thinking.
Our staffers share their first memories

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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