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first memories
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first memories

by David Henault david henault
Be Spiritual | Personal Story

childhood memories
I spend a lot of time thinking back about my first childhood memory.

Its very hard. You have to go through all of the holidays and birthdays, everyplace you’ve ever gone, every person you have ever met, every picture that you hold dear and even some you hold not so dear. I have even spent time on silent retreat, searching for this one elusive memory, hoping I wouldn’t get shaken out of focus, and that the precious window between space and time wouldn’t close.

Maybe it's not that difficult for most people, but it was very hard for me. However I think I have found it.

…I am standing outside on a hot day in New Mexico, holding a garden hose. There are cactus around me. Those pancaked shaped ones that look like they grow out of each other. I am at my sister's house and wearing an odd pastel striped jumper that only a two year old can be caught in. There are kids off to my right by the screen door. They are Indian. I am stepping on ants with my feet…

There. That’s it. Nothing else. I mean maybe I was throwing rocks too, but I can’t be sure. I can barely remember what the kids were saying. I remember that I thought they looked different. My family was yelling at me from inside the house telling me not to spray the water from the hose onto the door.

It's amazing how many of us strive to find that one piece of information that we think is the missing link. Now that I have found it, it’s not that exciting. I mean, I am excited that I found it, but now that I have it, what do I do with it? You can’t frame something like that and hang it on the wall. You can’t make an audio of the voices that were heard. You can’t even invite someone in to share it with you because it's yours. Only yours.

Mine. Only mine. Now that doesn’t sound that bad. This is the only thing that I haven’t felt selfish about in a long time. This is the beginning as I know it. Just a little boy driving with his family across the country from Boston to Disneyland, stopping to see his sister on the way. As I slip into a comfortable spot of knowing I have found something I have been searching for so deeply, I get another brainstorm:

…We are driving in my sister's car. A big gold car. The radio is on and there’s this song, “…Sky rockets in flight, dum-dum, AF-TER-NOON DELIGHT…”.  We stop at a restaurant that has a lounge attached. There is a thunderstorm outside. I am drinking a coke with a cherry in it. The waitress loves me. She keeps bringing me more Cokes with cherries in them. I can remember the smell of that lounge. Its hard to describe. Kind of like beer, cigarettes and cherries all rolled into one. 

Now I’m in Disneyland. There are fireworks. There is a castle. 

“Look Davey. Look at Tinkerbell!” 

I can’t see ANY ‘bell’, anywhere. 

“Davey, there she is. On the castle. See her?”. 

I don’t. I see a big castle, lots of fireworks but no girl and NO bell. Everything is then over as quickly as it began. I missed whatever it is that everyone was waiting for. But I don’t care because I’m two.

After Disneyland, memories become more clear and I can remember seemingly insignificant things about my life more easily. Well, if they were insignificant, I probably wouldn’t be writing about them, right? 

I can remember laying in a crib and becoming aware of my surroundings after just waking up. You know, that point of awake where you are not fully awake, but not fully asleep either. You can hear sounds around you, but not comprehend too much. I remember waking up like that and feeling completely safe. Even that young, I knew what the feeling of safety was.

While other memories are more prominent as I get older and are more easily accessible, the early memories are the ones that I grasp for most. I can still to this day strain myself and get back to that same feeling of peace and serenity as if it were yesterday. 

As we get older, we lose that. That safety and security. We fear simple things like credit card companies and supervisors. Our car payment can give us anxiety, and going to the market can push someone over the edge and in some cases, so can merely talking to another human being. Why can’t we all just try to return sometimes to that innocent, carefree life of a two-year old?

We CAN do that. We have the ability to do what ever we want. If even just for a few moments in our life, just to regain a portion of the innocence and feel that serenity. I wish to shout that out and have everyone grasp my interpretation of how the world could work. I wish to inspire many people to spend time in the reminiscence of their childhood, on the moment of calm and safety they might have experienced at one time, and delight in the feeling of it.