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Earliest memory

For many years, I knew exactly what my earliest memory was.

I was 4 years old, standing on the hump that ran through the middle of our family car, holding on to the back of the bench seat where my parents sat. The light flickered through the trees crowding the road and hurt my eyes. Daddy drove and Momma held down the passenger side. From the back seat I had just heard my parents talking about my Dad leaving the church he pastored in the little Texas town of Deweyville without having been already called to another pastorate.

"But where are we going to live?" I blurted, confused and scared. As a preacher's kid, I knew we always lived in the parsonage. Without a church, we would not have a house.

My mother turned to me without smiling. "You don't have to worry. God will always take care of us."

I don't remember feeling comforted, but I remembered what she said.

Even into my adulthood, I identified this as my earliest memory. For years, every time I passed along roads where the light flickered through the trees, I would feel that initial distress again.

Psychologists say that what people identify as their earliest memory indicates a great deal about their life view and the source of basic emotions, such as insecurity, fear, and faith, in my case. (What one thinks is the earliest memory may not actually be the first, however. In my case, years later, I told my mother about several recurring dreams and nightmares I had that she was able to connect to experiences I had at ages 2 and 3. But those experiences were less significant to my development, so had not been part of my conscious memory.)

In writing about your life, you will probably want to write about your earliest memory. Think about how that experience may relate to your personality, your life history, your relationship issues, etc. This memory may spur other memories or may even give you a theme for your life story. It will certainly add interest.

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