Before I begin writing this, let me start by saying that I have officially given up wrestling with Dragon over control of my computer. Nuance has made an excellent piece of software, and I have no complaints, as it has served me well over the past year and a half. It's just that my voice has degraded to the extent, thanks, Lou Gehrig, that the computer no longer recognizes what I say with any reasonable accuracy. So how are you typing this, I hear you wondering?
I'm glad you asked. World, meet Dasher, the marvel of the twenty-first century. Dasher is an Open Source piece of software that works in conjunction with my eye gaze tracker to allow words to fly across the screen. I'm up to about twenty words a minute, with improvement every day.
My very first memory in life is when I rode on the back of a sidewalk chalk giraffe. I'm sure you didn't see that coming.
Well, it's true. It happened when I was almost three. March 11, 1970, to be exact.
It was dark, I remember. The giraffe was friendly, of course, though you would have already guessed that much, for what other sort of sidewalk chalk giraffe would allow a toddler on its back?
(This image was created by myself with my eyes only, in case you're wondering.)
The giraffe had spots all over its neck, messy yellow and pastel purple spots, just like you would expect. Big round circles, drawn roughly, the sort that typically sport the back of a giraffe of that rare species.
I hold the memory dear, and when they make the movie of my life, I hope they get it right and animate this wild boy riding the sidewalk chalk giraffe of his dreams.
Oops, I gave it away, didn't I? About the dream, that is. And without a spoiler alert, even. Sorry about that.
The rest of that memory becomes a little hazy to me. I do remember the shock of light flooding the playhouse, moments before being lifted rudely without my consent and taken outside.
This is the part where I cannot completely trust my memory, because I first of all remember the rest of this in black and white, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that color had been invented well before 1970.
Second of all, although I remember my father telling me that there was someone he wanted me to meet, as he carried me out of the playhouse and away from my sidewalk chalk companion, the memory clearly shows my father standing a bit away, opening the door of a strange car, maybe a taxi, and with a red beard and his sailor's uniform, dashing, but, I hear you complain, how could you know his beard was red if the world was black and white? Bear with me, this is the way that ancient memories of childhood persist.
And finally, I remember quite clearly that my father was still holding me as he opened said car door. What, you ask, dear observant and slightly skeptical reader? Are you implying an out of body experience?
I make no such claims. In fact, I make no judgements of value to this memory. I simply accept it as it comes flying across the decades to this man, sitting in his wheelchair and reminiscing on that far away time, when he could still walk, could still grasp tightly to his father, and had fanciful dreams of being a zookeeper or a sidewalk chalk artist.
And now if you'll forgive me, it's time I take a brief rest, for I've just learned that Dasher interprets my tears as an indication to cause the letters to cascade in a mixed up clutter of word salad at the bottom of the screen, and I am unable to wipe my eyes without assistance.
But wait, I hear you cry. You can't leave us hanging. We don't know who your father wanted you to meet? And please, tell us more about that giraffe.
Well, since you ask so nicely, gentle reader. After all, the cliffhanger is but a cheap literary trick whose sole purpose is to sell the sequel, and besides not wanting to be seen as cheap, I'm not interested in causing undue stress. So let me wrap this up, and in a tidy package with a bow, nonetheless.
So it might have occurred already to you, astute and forgiving reader, that the person my father wanted me to meet may have been a new addition to the family, such as a younger sibling or a puppy or a visiting aunt. And right you are, there's no pulling the wool over your eyes.
In fact, the next part of my fuzzy memory is just that, although you have to remember that even though this memory is brought to you by a forty-five year old man, comfortable in his cliches, it comes from a very, very young child, in fact about the age of his youngest daughter, who should be getting home from daycare in a few minutes.
My father, still holding me from my distant vantage point, if you will recall, opened the door to the cab, an old black and white, if my memory serves me, and my mother, strangely skinnier than the day before, stepped out, holding this tiny, tiny baby. And I remember my dad saying, "Aaron, Meet your new baby brother."
Now we all know how memory works, and we know that some memories are better than others, and that some memories shift and turn in our recollections, transmuting into weird shapes as we try to reclaim them from the hallowed shores of youthdom. And some interlopers, fancy doppelgangers come unbidden in the night to place themselves in our minds, are not even ours.
But regardless of the glaring inconsistencies and window dressings enshrouding this treasured memory of mine, two things have stood the test of time, entrenched in the clarity of hundreds of late night meandering recollections. The first, as I have already relayed, is that as impossible as it sounds, I clutched that sidewalk chalk giraffe's neck tight and rode it through some lazy afternoon nap.
And next, and this is probably the reason the memory has even bothered to persist across the decades is this: the thing that stands out most to me is a vague feeling of annoyance that they dragged me away from my adventure with that sidewalk chalk giraffe for this?
And there you have it, dear and gallant reader, the defining oldest memory of mine, this sanctuary that bears me through difficult, long nights, this persistence of memory.