@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
One of the questions often asked in therapy is what is your earliest childhood memory.
Now, the memory is not such a reliable thing. All of our memories are tailored and twisted. Almost none of our memories are 100% how anything happened. Ask any cop how reliable eye witness testimony is (spoiler alert: terrible). So often, we don’t remember our memories themselves, but rather, we remember the last time we remembered the memory.
As for childhood memories, well, some are completely fabricated. I’m not calling you a liar. You believe them. They can be crafted from looking at old photos, home videos, or stories people told you about yourself from that time in your life.
Of course, some of us have better memories than others. A good friend of mine from childhood says she remembers very little before her teen years. I have been told I have quite a good memory. Perhaps, some of this has to do with the fact that I am a writer. When you write about your experiences, you’re more likely to cement them to your inner workings.
However, we often remember how something or someone made us feel more than happenings themselves. How you felt is more reliable than the actual timeline of events. How you felt is even can be important than the facts.
As for me, well, I think my earliest memory is completely fabricated. Because it is May 12th, 1991. This is the date of the birth my kid brother. And the reason I believe it’s a false memory is because I was four days away from my second birthday. Seems way too young to remember that far back (although my brother claims his earliest memory is from when he was two years old). The memory is not actually meeting my baby brother, but rather, going to the hospital in the car with my Dad and my sister, Lisa (who was four years old). I remember both my Dad and Lisa being really excited, especially my Dad. My Dad was quite disappointed when he found out that he was having a second daughter (me) and not a son. It seems mildly cruel, if not misogynistic, to so strongly favor having a son over a daughter. Though this is not so uncommon for fathers. Mothers, too. I hear almost as many women say they’d prefer to have a son than a daughter, which mystifies the actual fuck out of me. There’s pros and cons to both genders, sure, but if it were me, I’d just want my baby to be healthy. And as they grow up, I’d just want them to be kind, funny and happy.
It is rather stereotypical of man to want a son (especially an Italian man, first born son, all that fucking toxic masculinity bullshit). My Dad was especially stoked and surprised for Mitch, because the doctor told my parents that they were having a third daughter. So until he was born, we believed our family was going to be three girls. To this day, my Mom is convinced the doctor told my parents this on purpose, knowing they were having a boy, but to fuck with my Dad because he was so bent on having a son.
My Father fantasized of playing sports, watching football, water skiing with a son. Though, the irony here is, while we all played sports, my brother hates watching football. I’m the football fan. My Dad and Mitch butt heads quite often growing up (still do, sometimes). Almost as much as my Mom and Lisa butt heads (though it’s pretty normal for daughters to clash with their moms and sons to clash with their dads). I didn’t much fight with anyone. My siblings sometimes, I imagine, had a twinge of jealousy towards me at times as “the favorite” because I seldom fought with anyone. From a young age, I was the family mediator and unofficial therapist. I don’t think I was a very normal child.
As life would turn out, I was the son my Dad always wanted.
Back to the day my brother was born. I remember being excited for a baby brother. I also remember thinking that on this day, my life would be different forever (compared to what? My two years of existence? Could I possibly have been an existential toddler?). See what I’m saying here? I’m not lying to you when I say I remember this, but I highly doubt this is a real memory.
Perhaps, whether or not this is a real memory doesn’t matter at all. Rather, WHY do I THINK this is my earliest memory. Perhaps because of how much I love my brother? Perhaps because it was the first major change in my life? I mean, I was still shitting in diapers, was I not? But there is something to be said that my earliest memory, be it fiction or non-fiction, is one of family and love.
Although I have two distinct early memories from when I was three years old, at Disney World, our first family vacation. One which involves pooping my pants. Both memories, I am quite sure are real.
We were on line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.* The urge to do number two came on fast and strong, from “I think I have to poo” to “I have to poop right fucking now.” (Perhaps others with fast metabolism experience this as well? Because this urgency is still quite common for me.) Anyway, we were getting close to the front of line and I was trying to hold it, until I was tugging at my Mom’s shirt that I had to go to the bathroom. It was an emergency. My Mom got off the line with me and we rushed to the nearest restroom. I didn’t quite make it. I pooped my little pants.
I was horribly embarrassed. I felt such SHAME. Oh the shame! Shame is a feeling I’d come to internalize and know quite well, often unjustifiably so. I didn’t hysterically cry, but there were tears because I was so embarrassed. I was three years old for Christ’s sake! How could this possibly happen (geez, I guess I was hard on myself even back then). Get it together, Lori! My Mother, being the sweet woman she is, was nothing but fostering. But I had to wear one of my baby brother’s diapers because I had no change of underwear. When we returned to Mr. Toads, I thought everyone was looking at me, a three year old, wearing a diaper. Loser. Failure. In actuality, if people were looking at me it was probably because I had such an over-sized head and unusually small body.
This shame is utterly ridiculous for many reasons. For one, no one really gives a fuck about other people to pay close attention. Secondly, having an accident at three years old isn’t uncommon. And third of all, I was so tiny for my age, I still fit into one year old diapers, no one would have guessed I was the old age of three.
*[Fun Facts! Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride would close down in Disney World (Orlando) many years ago, so much so that I wouldn’t remember the ride itself. However, some years ago when I went out to LA for comedy, I took a day trip to Disney Land, where that ride still exists. That ride is hilarious. Because in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, you are a passenger in his car and he is literally drunk off his ass, and in the end, he goes to Hell for drunk driving. It is oddly dark.]
Alas, I have a tender memory from this trip as well. It was the end of the day. We were all tired. If I remember correctly, Mitch was asleep in the carriage. We got ice cream cones and watched the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen: the firework show above Cinderella’s Castle. Of course, my memory of the fireworks itself at Disney are probably from my trips there when I was older, but I remember how I felt. I remember wanting to live in that moment forever. That this was the best day of my life (in three years of life). That we were all so happy. How much I loved them, and they loved me, and how “when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”
This is one of my favorite memories, ever.