My first memory comes from one of a series of diluted memories that would have been my first post, but got deleted by my itchy "Q" finger.
In the original post I went on about how my dad worked for the NSA and we were moved to this crazy listening outpost in northern England and while we were in temporary housing I hit my head on the radiator, which is probably why I don't remember anything from before that. Unlikely. The fact is, I was three years old when that happened, and I don't know too many people who remember anything from before then.
It is possible if I dredged a little more I might find some earlier memories than that. But this one memory will have to suffice.
Since we were fenced in on this RAF base, the parents never really worried about their kids running off. I mean my Dad could probably have had someone tap a satellite feed and track my coordinates anyway. So they thought we were pretty safe.
The only potential danger were the few British picketers who occasionally loitered outside of the base, holding their signs and yelling indistinguishable protests at us as we exited and entered the gates. The MPs kept anyone unsavory from entering. Only caretakers and approved personnel were allowed.
My friends and I were out playing on the playground, which was at the end of the long loop going through the residential area of the station. One of the caretakers pulled up nearby and signaled to us. I looked around and the other kids seemed to know what was up. "Come on," they seem to say in my murky memory.
They apparently knew the guy. Sure, I recognized him. The gray, balding head. The little riding lawnmower with the blue trailer. I didn't know his name or anything else about him, though. The other kids gathered around and he gave them each a round bonbon wrapped in paper. I adamantly refused, knowing by then that taking candy from strangers was not a good thing.
He frowned and said, "But son, this isn't candy. It's a low-singe." I didn't know what the heck he was saying, so I asked if it was sweet. He said, "Okay" and looked around at the other kids who were already smacking their lips on their cough drops. He told me to put it in my pocket and I could ask my Mummy and Daddy if it was okay later.
Then he said he was going to teach us how to play a little game. My eyes narrowed and I looked at the handful of smiling girls and boys around me. I glanced back over my shoulder wondering how hard it would be to run back down the street to my home. How fast could I get away from this guy?
He just wanted to show us how an ancient trick to tell if a train was coming or not. If we put our ears to the ground, then we could hear the ground rumble if something was on its way. This seemed ridiculous. There were no trains here on base. So why would we want to do that? He said, that if we closed our eyes and concentrated really hard, we could also hear footstep and cars on the road.
We bend over to the ground, and he said, "Go on, close your eyes." I squinted so it only seemed like my eyes were shut. And I watched him walk around to each of the kids to see if they were really not peaking.
Someone piped up, "I think I hear someone coming." And the game was over.
We all opened our eyes and the caretaker told us that he was out there every day around this time if we wanted to play some more. My edited memory tells me that he wasn't talking to me: Maybe more to the girls.
When I returned home, I told my mother about the cough drop, asking if I could eat it. She scolded me, saying that I should know better to take anything, from strangers. It didn't matter if it wasn't candy. What was I thinking?
I don't remember seeing that man again after that. It could have been because my parents said something that got him fired, or maybe he was too scared to play with the kids again after that. Or maybe that was when my parents decided it was time for me to go to preschool.