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I don't even know what I'm wearing today unless I look down.


Someone told me a few years ago (or maybe it was yesterday, who knows?) that eventually you are not remembering real memories, but simply the memory you have made of those memories. Does that make sense? Something could have been repeated to you by a parent, and eventually that's just a memory you have. That said, my earliest memory is age 4 and my father is taking me to the hospital to see my sister who had just been born. Then, because in 1970 they didn't let kids into hospital rooms, I remember someone (a grandparent?) holding my sister up so I could see. This was a first floor hospital room. Perhaps all this was just told to me, but it feels like a real memory.

There's some discussion of those phenomena among the commenters on Neo's post. Yours certainly sounds believable as an actual memory.

I have a very similar memory, Stu, except in my case it was my dad holding me up so I could see through the window to see my little, newborn sister in the hospital. I would have been just a few months short of 4 years old.

I think that's my earliest distinct memory.

I had my tonsils out two months before my third birthday, and I can remember a lot about it. They wheeled me into a room that had a LOT of toys on shelves, and told me to pick one for after the operation. There was a wooden puzzle of a magician's head that I really wanted to pick, but I was thinking, "But that's a baby's puzzle," so I didn't. Then they told me they were going to put this mask over my nose and mouth, and to just breathe. I was really scared and started crying when they put the mask on, and they said, "That's right, that's right," and I was thinking something like, "What is the matter with these grown-ups? Why do they want me to cry"

Then I remember the room, and the tray with red jello and vanilla ice cream and a Coke, and somebody brought me a nurse's kit and a coloring book with a picture of an Indian Chief with a big headdress.

After that, I remember quite a bit from when I was in kindergarten, but then not much until the third grade.

Karr does seem to remember a lot.


One difference between your book and hers is that she is writing exclusively about her own experience, whereas, while there is a lot of autobiographical material in your book, it is also about what was going on around you.

One big difference is that she really exposes her family and friends, which you don't choose to do, and that makes it more sensational, but then, she just had a more horrible life--the second book is pretty horrible--and therefore more sensational. There just weren't any grown-ups in her life that were looking out for her, and you were surrounded by people who were, thank goodness.

They are just two different kinds of memoirs. Yours is more like that of the Jewish man whose parents were Communists--the one who wrote you. David something?


That is pretty wild, Craig! And who knows, maybe my father held me up too? The memory is there, but the details are fuzzy. I remember driving down tenth avenue to the stoplight on 125th St, then I remember the window and my sister.

David Horowitz. Right, that's pretty much what I meant by saying mine is 50% memoir. Of course even if I had chosen to write a pure intimate expose-myself-and-everybody-else kind of book it would still be very different. Nowhere near as colorful.

I didn't know there was a second book?!? I mean, I know this isn't her only book but didn't realize there were further memoirs.

"That's a baby's puzzle" is pretty funny. Your early memories are of the sort that I'm pretty certain are genuine (re Stu's comment above), because you remember what you were thinking. It occurs to me to wonder if part of the disparity between male and female in this is the "girls mature earlier" pattern being evident even at that age. I don't think any definite memories of what I was thinking can have been earlier than age 4. Which seems to be pretty typical, at least for men.

Did you ever hear Bill Cosby's routine about having his tonsils out? He's bitter because he was told he could have ice cream afterward, but then not being able to eat it because his throat hurt too much.

Cross-posted with Stu--I was replying to Janet.

"driving down tenth avenue"--I have a very distinct and quite early memory of sitting in the passenger seat of a car driving down a street with big trees lining and hanging over it, and liking the way it looked (it was not my normal landscape). Circumstantially I think I was probably around 4, but there's nothing definite enough to pin it down.

Karr has written three memoirs; her website says she's a poet and memoirist.

As of now I'd say I'm not in the market for another memoir from her, as vivid as this one is.

That's a great set of memories, Janet. Big events seem to embed deeper memories. It kind of makes me wish I'd had my tonsils out at that age.

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