A related article by Howard Kurtz, Staff Writer at the Washington Post reports a former Los Angeles Times recently fired editor, Dean Baquet, who refused to decimate the papers staff has been rehired by the New York Times with details HERE. The saga continues to be all about money.]
ASSAULTS OF SENSORY MEMORY
Mother said I must have been only about two or three years old when, as an adult, I described to her an experience I thought I remembered. I wanted her confirmation as to whether or not that event really had occurred. She was amazed, as she was with other memories I had, and later recounted to her for her verification, that my recollection, in fact, had really happened. I wanted to know the experience was not either a pleasant or unpleasant figment of my imagination, a dream or a nightmare.
I remembered entering into a house, that seemed darkened on the inside, heavy with a musky slightly unpleasant odor I vividly recalled for many years when I was younger, but has now left my conscious sensory memory. Then, I remembered only that someone had died. Mother slowly sorted through her memories, finally recalling taking me with her to the residence of a then recently deceased relative, who was lying in state in a casket in her home, as was the custom of the time. Subsequently, Mother determined the age at which I would have been then.
In those days, the deceased typically was not embalmed, was "viewed" in the individuals home, hence the strong over-powering odor that had so permeated my senses as a child. As an adult I had learned that the earliest sensory memories that children often have occur with the sense of smell, which is why I had felt so confident that my memory was real.
Over the years I verified other memories with my mother, some pleasant, others not. She was sometimes startled with some of what I recalled, even saying, "I didn't think you'd remember that."
I remember well the two-story house in which I was born and subsequently lived for the first five years of my life. I recall the interior with a slightly sunken living room that led with one step up into a dining room containing a table and chairs. Stairs the length of the right side of the room led to the second floor, the area that was the beginning focus of a recurring dream I had periodically throughout my childhood into young adulthood.
In the dream I am at the top of stairs, that I then fly down, but I never am aware in the dream of reaching the bottom step. As an adult relating this curious repetitive dream to my mother, she told me of an occasion when I was first learning to walk when I suddenly took it upon myself to step forward from the top of the stairs, instead of turning around and backing down as I had been so carefully taught.
My short legs did not allow for such big steps down those stairs, so I proceeded to roll down them with my mother a half-step behind reaching out but unable to grasp me until I stopped, upon reaching the bottom step. I was, apparently, no worse for the experience, but I am confident this event was the source of my "flying" dream those many years.
My favorite memory at that house was a combination smell, visual imprint of our kitchen. I can still see sparkling sunlight streaming through the kitchen window illuminating a soft yellowish reflection from the room's painted walls. A yeasty aroma filled the room permeating my nostrils. Mom had made Parker House Rolls now at the rising stage just before baking. I have been told, if given the opportunity, I was known to stealthily enter the kitchen, even to the extent of climbing up on a kitchen counter to reach an upper shelf, then removing one of the doughy uncooked yeasty rolls and eating it, though I do not recall this.
Gazing out another kitchen window allowed me an additional fond memory of a tiny birdhouse I have recently learned my older brother made, which each spring would be inhabited by tiny delicate little house wrens. They layed a few eggs, from which their baby birds hatched, eventually flying away, as did their parents to seek warmer climes when fall and winter approached.
This past summer for the first time in half a century I visited some residences, including this one, where I once had lived. I viewed the house only from the exterior. It seemed quite nondescript, insignificant and not at all the special structure I recalled, though it was freshly painted and the exterior appeared well-maintained.
Even the "mansion" as our neighborhood referred to it, across the street on a huge corner lot, sitting way back among the trees, seemed less magnificent though still impressive. My mother said she sometimes allowed me to play with the owner's son, who was my age, but that ceased to be acceptable to her when upon coming to retrieve me one day at a designated hour, she discovered their maid was allowing the son and I to jump up and down on the beds.
The son, however, was then allowed to come to our house on occasion, but I suspect even that ceased to be an attraction for him based on another story my mother told me. We had green shrubs in front of our house where one day he reportedly chose once again to relieve himself in my presence. I am told that I found this quite unacceptable since having learned this could kill the shrubs, and I proceeded to bloody his nose.
His attitude toward girls may have been forever affected by my actions that day. Perhaps, my attitude toward boys was, too. I wish I knew if we ever reconciled. I saw the last name of this boy on a downtown office nameplate on my visit last summer. I wish I had been able to take the time to visit this office to determine if this was, indeed, the same boy, perhaps facilitate the reconciliation if it had not previously occurred. If this office did house him, I find it interesting to learn he had become a lawyer. I wonder if my childhood actions had any influence on his choice of profession?
As adults, parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, we would all be well-advised to remember that children absorb all their sensory experiences much like the proverbial sponge. They remember much more than the adults often think they do. If the child does not consciously remember, or have the skills to report events, experiences to which they are exposed, the imprint through some or all senses is there, contributing to the child's development of either a positive or a negative view of various aspects of life, shaping behaviors for the better or worse, influencing attitudes in the future toward the manner in which they conduct their life.