Sometimes when I am doing a completely normal task like brushing my teeth or loading the dishwasher, a memory from my childhood will appear out of nowhere. I don’t have a lot of early childhood memories. In fact, I don’t really remember anything before the age of 8 or 9. Sure I can recall houses we lived in, but as far as specific things that happened or seemingly major life events, no recollection. I actually don’t even remember my two younger sisters being born. I know I was there, I am in all of the pictures, I just can’t recall it to save my life. When Christina was born I was 4 and when Katy was born I was 5. Shouldn’t I remember something about these momentous occasions? I wish I did.
I don’t remember driving across country with my dad when we moved from Virginia to California. I don’t remember any of my birthday parties (sorry mom, I’m sure they were awesome!) or holidays as a child. My first Christmas memory is from when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I have asked my mom why she thinks I don’t remember much from my first almost 10 years on this planet and without missing a beat she said “you have always been in your own world. You were there physically, but not so much mentally. You were always daydreaming, thinking, or playing with your imaginary friend.” Her name was New Courtney (really creative name, I know) and she was pretty awesome! Don’t judge. Anyway, my mom’s explanation made sense to me, as I still have a hard time recalling even recent happenings. I am usually too busy thinking about puppies, what is for dinner, or having a miniature existential crisis. I get those a lot.
The other day I was washing some blackberries for an afternoon snack and a memory came flooding back to me, one that made me grin from ear to ear above the kitchen sink. It also made me realize how much our society has changed in the past 20 years. Charlotte and I were 7 and 6 years old, and we lived on a military base in Monterey, California. In the early mornings we would head outside to meet our neighborhood friends and wouldn’t return until sunset. Most days we would wander through the thick woods until we got to “our spot.” Our spot was at the end of a maze of bushes, a secluded bush that produced wonderfully fresh blackberries. In my imaginative mind, we were children of the land and had to scavenge for berries to live on, pretending our food-filled pantry half a mile away didn’t exist. We would eat all the blackberries our stomachs could handle, and then chase salamanders through the grass.
One summer I remember making my own “business” called “Gum Pops.” My first crush (I definitely remember him!), Scott, and I walked to the base’s convenience store and bought two rolls of bubble tape. We then tore off little pieces, rolled them into balls with our dirt-laced fingers, and stuck them on toothpicks. We went door to door selling “gum pops” for a quarter each and to our amazement, actually sold a few! Thinking back, the sweet military wives who bought them from us probably carried the germ ridden gum pops straight to the trashcan, as they should have!
Due to my lack of early childhood memories, I love when random things like wild blackberry picking and Gum Pops come back to me. I wish that kids nowadays could enjoy the freedom that my sister and I experienced every beautiful summer day in the early 90’s. In 2012, no decent parents would their let children roam the woods or city all day long without a check in. Even on a military base, it would be risky. Back then, it was normal and even encouraged! Even though there are a lot of parts I don’t remember about my childhood, I know it was happy. I have seen hundreds of pictures and hours of home videos where I am a frizzy haired, skinned knee, tan lined little girl, as happy as can be. I am thankful for the barefoot summers in Northern California.