I think my earliest memory is early 1970, believe it or not. I was probably 2 years old. The reason I think this is my earliest memory is because I once described the memory to my mother, who instantly recognized the place and description of what happened was happening. The memory is simply as follows:
I was very small. I remember coming out of our house, which was a small brick home, with my father, my mother, and my older brother, Paul. I walked down the cement driveway and stood at the back-passenger side of the car and waited for my mother to open the door for me to get in. She was wearing a scarf on her head… the kind that women back then covered their hair with, and she was walking, holding a lit cigarette. The sky overhead was cloudy and in my memory it looked like it was about to rain. I remember the houses on either side of our small house looked very similar to the house we lived in. The wind was blowing a bit and my mom reached up with her free hand to secure the head scarf so that it wouldn’t blow away.
Years ago I told my mom about the memory and she is convinced that we were living in Mississippi, where my dad was working during the construction boom that followed Hurricane Camille’s landfall in Biloxi, Mississippi. It’s definitely possible that the memory is a mixture of several other memories, but considering I’ve kept this memory unchanged since I was a small boy, I’d like to think the memory is sound. I do have other memories of living in Mississippi (two other memories, in fact) that are fairly sharp.
What I didn’t tell my mother about this memory, and another reason that I trust its completeness, is that I remember feeling very afraid. My parents had just finished with a huge fight, and my mom had been crying and screaming. In my memory I wondered where we were going, and I was afraid of what might happen. I didn’t know why we were getting in the car and I was afraid it had something to do with the major fight I had just witnessed. So in that sense, it’s a bit of a sad memory I suppose.
Still, I conjure the memory from time to time just so I can reflect back on my young mother, walking her little boys to the car, trying to hurry us along because it was about to start raining, with her worrying that her head scarf was about to blow away.