I lived in the house on Watts Street in Jackson, Michigan from the age of one until about four, and it's there that I have my earliest memories. I remember our dog being hit by a car because, as my father said, "he didn't look both ways before crossing the street". I remember seeing several birds sitting on a telephone wire one day, and a kid telling me if I quick ran into the house and turned on the radio it would kill them. I opted not to do that. I remember when it rained, we had a rain barrel that sometimes bubbled over and the water ran down the side onto the stones on the ground, turning them amazingly colorful. Greens and blues and reds.
While this may not be my earliest memory because my time on Watts Street has become blended, it is my most vivid: It was my birthday, probably my third, and I was aware that the occasion was somehow special, and about me. My Uncle Joe was there, as was my Auntie Madlyne, Grandpa and Grandma, Mom and Dad, and baby sister Carole. There may have been others, since it did seem crowded. I remember getting several presents; things that were smilingly held up in front of me, and then put back in their ribboned box before I had a chance to touch them. But the best was the last, and it came from Auntie Madlyne. It was a toy windup army tank. Tin, painted green and orange, it had decals of some sort on its side, and a turret on top with a gun. It was, I'm sure, my first toy vehicle and the fact it could move on its own was amazing to me. The main feature of this marvel was wide rubber treads, which allowed it to climb over books and assorted things Uncle Joe put on the floor. The grownups showed me how to aim it toward the obstacles, and they showed me how to wind it up. They showed me how if the pile was too high, it could tip over backwards and right itself and try again. They showed me all the marvelous things a little tin tank could do including shooting little puffs of smoke out the barrel of the gun. Fascinating! But, what they didn't do was to stop playing with it themselves long enough for me to play with it. Every time I reached for it, someone would say, "Let me show you this", and they would. If I did manage to get my hands on it, someone would say, "Here, let me help you" or "Watch this, Honey". "See?" The words "see" and "watch" kept coming up. Of course I could "see", of course i could "watch". I had no other choice.
After a dozen futile attempts to grab it, I give up, and soon I was totally ignored in the process while my family happily entertained themselves.
Eventually, I just sat back and became a spectator at my birthday party. Watching the tank was interesting, but not particularly fun.
I'm sure the party must have ended at some time, and I probably played with that army tank. I hope I did. But unfortunately, that isn't part of my earliest memories.
As I think about early memories today, I realize that the grownups at my third birthday party were reliving their childhood as I'm doing now. That makes me feel better. I'm glad I could be of service. Really.