I often wonder what my children will remember from their early years. Will they remember trekking through ancient Mayan ruins on our vacation? Will they remember the colors and feel of their favorite sweatshirt? Will they remember our daily bicycle rides through the forest? Will they remember the words to our beloved goodnight song?
Photos help spark memories. On rainy days, we crawl into bed with our favorite albums. We often flip through them and the children cry out many “I remembers.”
“I remember when we rode in Dave’s convertible!”
“I remember when you filled up our kiddie pool with flour!”
“I remember when we tackled Cocia Natka on the Polo field.”
But. What will their first memory be of, that is not photo sparked?
Growing up in the heat of Polish communism I have less then a dozen pictures documenting the first six years of my life. My younger sister has three. This contributes to her middle child syndrome. My American born baby brother has shelf loads of albums to help him spark memories.
My first memory, that is not photo sparked, is of the night we left Poland.
I remember the rain that fell that night was much colder than any other rain I have felt before. I remember it was a perfectly dark night and for a five year old the darkness was frightening. I remember the warmth of my mother’s hand as she held onto mine. I remember my two year old sister heavily asleep in my father’s arms and her shallow breaths released in air. I remember the three story brick building we stood outside for hours, in the dark, in the rain, and alone. I remember bland potato soup for dinner was served in metal army canisters. I remember being assigned one heavy army style bunk bed for our entire family of four. I remember the rough texture of the brown blanket my mother lovingly tucked me in with.
This is all that I remember of our first night at the Austrian refugee camp. It was a safe place that other immigrants fleeing from the iron gates of communism stayed. It was temporary until families found new living arrangements in Austria, a foreign land.
My first memory is that of the love my parents had for us that night.
And so, I wonder what my children’s first memory will be.
Left: Picture of OHmommy in Gdansk, Poland
Right: Family passport picture of my mother and sister and me.