Remembering

It was on a bright day of midwinter, in New York. The little girl who eventually became me, but as yet was neither me nor anybody else in particular, but merely a soft anonymous morsel of humanity –this little girl, who bore my name, was going for a walk with her father. The episode is literally the first thing I can remember about her, and therefore I date the birth of her identity from that day.

-Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance

While I do agree that we are what we eat in the physical sense, in terms of personality I think we are what we remember. I love the above quote because it reminds me of my first memories. A thousand little slices that made up my earliest days.

I have memories of injuries that extend up to, but do not include, the moment of injury itself. My memories then pick up a while later. (My memory of sticking a paper clip in a light switch, for example, ends with “a real bright light,” to quote the homeless guy from Terminator. It picks up with me on the couch seeing colored halos around everything.) My brain has thoughtfully edited out the pain, while leaving enough to let me know that it freaking hurt and to never do that again.

My favorite early memory, though, is of a sunny morning when I was around 3. I’d snuck outside early, while the sun was low enough to shine directly in my face, to play on my swingset. As I pumped my legs, I discovered that squinting my eyes created a halo of circular rainbows around my vision. I can remember it all so vividly, even now: The warmth of the sun on my eyelids, the cool air rushing past my scabbed knees, and the rainbows in my eyes.

Age and knowledge have since revealed those rainbows to be merely the sun striking my eyelashes. But I prefer to think I carry tiny rainbows with me wherever I go, and if I squint my eyes right, they will return even on the gray, rainy days.

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