Yesterday I asked my students to describe their earliest memory and tell me the emotion they had at that particular moment. I was expecting confusion and embarrassed silence, but in fact they were all ready to play along. They described to me those short snapshots in time that were by turns frightening, surprising, happy and sad. Often uncomfortable. But they were hooked.
“Oh that went well”, I thought by the end of it, and then this girl lightens up and asks me to describe my earliest memory. After so many confessions, I owed this to them.
It shot through me straight away, that afternoon when I was 4 years old lying in my kindergarten bed. Everyone was asleep, these being two quiet hours that I never learned to love. But the quietness I did enjoy, the silent snoring, the lazy reverie. Then my two kindergarten teachers who were sitting at the far end of the room took out a bottle of champagne and tried to open it. I remember the hollow sound of the cork plopping out of the bottle and hitting the ceiling and then jumping around the room as I jumped in my bed.
I keep thinking about that afternoon which lasted no longer than five seconds. They must have done something to me at that moment, something drastic and vital and fateful, even if I could never really tell what it was.