Essay: My Childhood Memories
Why is recounting one’s childhood memories important? Childhood plays an important part in the development of an individual and how they grow as people. It is supposed to be a time of enjoyment, playfulness and innocence, but most of all, it’s a time of exploration, to discover how and where our footsteps on the trail of growth will lead us. While everyone will have memories as varied and diverse as stars in the universe, I feel it is a valuable and personal source of liberation to share some of mine that have marked important signposts on the map of my life journey. Because childhood memories form the foundation for a person’s life and upbringing and will have a strong impact on who one is today, it can be helpful and therapeutic to dig through one’s own past to explore and remember that which has shaped us in our early years.
The one thing I could look forward to each year on my birthday was a birthday party. I would invite classmates and friends by sending out invitations in the mail announcing I was to have a party. Each year, the party was a different theme, some included Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, pizza places like Chucky Cheese, Jungle Gym, roller skating, bowling, movie nights, and slumber parties. The birthday cake was tied in with the theme, so a different cake was presented at each party throughout the years. Many games were played at my parties, such as “drop the clothespin in the bottle” game and scavenger hunts. Length of the parties varied depending on how old I was. When I was very young, they lasted a couple hours, and as I grew older they became slumber parties and my choice of invitees became more narrow. All in all, birthday parties were something I did each year on my birthday.
The holidays were always exciting times for me with all the good foods and gifts given. The Christmas holidays have always been a magical time of year for me. Everyone in the family would make Christmas lists so we’d all have some ideas of what to get everyone. We were always generous with gifts, giving at least three or more gifts per person. I loved all the sweets that were made at this time of year, and some years I even got to eat a store-bought gingerbread house. I remember trying to sneak as much candy as I could from the gingerbread display of goodness. My family and I would decorate the tree with lots of ornaments, including some that my sisters and I made. The whole living room would be festively decorated including musical bells over the fireplace. On Easter my sisters and I received Easter baskets filled with candies and trinkets. Easter egg hunts were also a tradition. One year, we had hollowed-out eggs that we filled with confetti and glitter. My sisters and I then played a game in the backyard where we would chase each other around and crack the eggs over each other’s heads. The backyard still had traces of confetti and glitter on the ground some years later. Every year on Halloween, my sisters and I would dress up in different costumes and went trick-or-treating with my dad, who sometimes would dress up as a Dracula version of Hilary Clinton. We never had a lot of trick-or-treaters come to our house, so we stopped buying candy and handed out granola bars to the few trick-or-treaters that stopped by. As a whole, the holidays were a great time of family togetherness and joy.
While I was growing up, my family and I had many family dogs. We were not biased toward any particular dog breed type, although we tended to have small-to-medium-sized dogs of different breeds; both purebred and mixed. In addition to family dogs, I had some pets of my own, including two hamsters, hermit crabs, some fish, and a guinea pig named Shadow who was especially dear to me. I was upset when Shadow died of old age. One memory that stands out clearly for me is when my sister gave me her hamster which I took care of for several months before it died of old age. With each pet death I grieved for the loss of a beloved friend and companion and was depressed for several days afterward. Pets leave a deep impact on one’s heart and soul and are a great blessing to have in one’s life. Animals have always been a major highlight in my life and a source of great comfort, and they continue to be an important part of my life.
In middle school and high school, I was in band and played the clarinet. By the 7th and 8th grade, I was in top band and then participated in marching band in high school. I still have vivid memories of practicing after school in the one hundred-plus degree heat. My favorite class in 11th grade was a dance class that included modern dance, jazz, ballet and western. At the end of the year, we had a performance. I immensely enjoyed this class even more so than band and these extracurricular activities were the things I enjoyed most about school.
During the summers, my family and I went on many different camping trips around the U.S, including the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, Carlsbad Caverns, Yellowstone Park, Rocky Mountains, Washington D.C., the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and more. But my most significant memory was our trip to Europe when I was fifteen. My dad had a work rotational assignment in Belgium with the company where he worked. We moved to Eckeren near the town of Antwerp in Belgium where Flemish, a dialect of Dutch, was spoken. I remember tons of driving and walking around seeing the sights, and not staying in one place for too long, as my parents wanted to see as much as possible during the ten months we were there. Some of the many places we visited were the Eiffel Tower, London Bridge and Stonehenge, Notre Dame, the Colosseum, Bath Houses in England and Rome, windmills in Holland and Anne Frank’s home, castles in Germany, Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii, lots of cathedrals, and more. One funny thing I remember was on just about every street corner were cathedrals and McDonalds. We ate out at McDonalds often while traveling, to the point we were getting tired of it. The cathedrals, while really exquisite, started to look the same after awhile. Souvenir shopping was something I immensely enjoyed. We ate out at many different restaurants, so I had the chance to try many different types of food. The school my sister and I attended consisted of people of many different backgrounds and nationalities, and was a five-minute walk from where we lived. The curriculum there was very difficult compared to what I was used to in American schools. I played my clarinet there as an extracurricular activity and successfully auditioned for a band trip to Austria. I was able to visit Austria when the rest of my family did not. Overall, the trip to Europe was a great learning experience, a chance to see more of the world, and a rare opportunity for us.
As childhood denotes an important timeframe within an individual’s life, therefore the recounting of such memories plays a significant role to see where one has been and where one is going. While it is not possible to include all my memories of childhood in this paper, the ones I have presented to you are some turning points in my life. They show some of the events that have happened in my childhood which have played a part in making me who I am today, thus marking essential milestones on my life journey. It is my hope that after reading this, the reader will be inspired to perhaps write their own life story and record their experiences to see how one has changed, and to remind oneself of the joys, challenges and sorrows that have shaped their lives whilst growing up. Not only is this therapeutic and educational to do so, but self-reflective as well, which is always a good thing.
Text Copyright Holder: (c)2011 Spirit of the Stars
Release Date: 03-11-2011
All Rights Reserved
Think back to your first memory. Can you remember your age? Or how you felt? The further back in your recollection you reach, the murkier memories become.
There's a reason these earlier episodes are elusive. This phenomenon, called "childhood amnesia," may kick in around age eight, according to psychologists from Emory University. The researchers asked parents to chat with their three-year-old children about recent life events such as visiting the zoo or going to a birthday party. Years later the kids were prompted to recall these same early experiences. The researchers found that the kids who were now six or seven remembered up to 72 percent of the memories collected at age three, but eight- and nine-year-olds could dredge up only half that.
This memory loss may actually be a byproduct of making new memories. In May, a team of neuroscientists at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada found that the creation of new neurons in the brain's memory systems--which appears to help us learn new concepts--may disrupt older connections.
Yet clearly some childhood remembrances persist, and we want to know what they are. Share a couple of sentences on one of your oldest recollections in the box below and a related photo, if you have one. Your story could be selected to appear in the print edition of Scientific American Mind or featured on the Web.
Please note that you must own the rights to any photos you submit. To be considered for inclusion in the print edition of Scientific American Mind, please submit your stories by June 30, 2014.*
*UPDATE 9/2/2014: You can view 135 submissions that MIND received via our online infographic.