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First memories of oneself can be easily confused with fabricated memories made by looking at old pictures, movies, and hearing stories related to one’s personal history. This is the case for me: I have seen so many home movies, heard so many stories about myself, and seen so many pictures about my early childhood, I do not know for certain what my first memory is in actuality. Since I cannot pinpoint my first memory exactly, I will unfold a series of memories that were the earliest in my childhood.

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trees in windI remember at night looking through the large glass windows of our living room at the huge pine trees and douglas fir trees, which brushed against our white fence. The trees would sway sometimes violently in the wind, as it was common in Seattle at night. I would watch the trees dance, believing to see many frightening and strange shapes forming in the dark, as if the trees were alive in a conscious way. The trees would shift into the types of monsters my imagination dreamed up. I would tell my mother about the shapes and forms, but as a common mother would do, she tried to calm me down instead of play along with my eerie fixation.

Another sharp early memory of mine was when I examined my body. I was curious, as most children are, about the texture and form of the body we are given at birth. From an early age, I had four operations: two open heart surgeries, and two hernia surgeries. I would feel my scars, which scale up my chest and travel near my groin as if they were landscapes, burned into my skin until age would fade them away. Besides scars, I would relish over the smallest of particulars about my eyes, which have hazel lines shooting out from the pupils. I would examine my life state through my eyes: I could see how I was on the whole through them. My hands were also a point of curiosity for me: my left hand is significantly smaller than my right hand because of surgeries. Comparing them was and still is a bit of a fetish of mine.

I learned to ride a bicycle quite early, though I do not remember the exact age. My father was a professional cyclist at one point, and he wanted his son to be keen in the sport as well. But I remember my first attempt to ride a bicycle without training wheels ending disastrously and humorously. Out on the main street next to our house, where there were almost no cars driving around back then due to less population, I started out okay on a small child-bike. My balance was fine from the start, but then I got overexcited and lost my balance, eventually smashing into our mailbox. Though my dad was concerned about my safety at first, after he saw that nothing serious had happened to me, he laughed without hesitation and was poking fun at me. I did not feel discouraged—in fact, I was laughing along after a few seconds.

I have many more scattered memories that could count as first memories, even though they are mixed in with my impressions from watching home movies, seeing pictures, and hearing stories about my childhood. We may not know our first memory for certain, but once we try to dig it up, the world we lived in as a child begins to pour through the lens of visual thought, bringing back the atmosphere of this time into the present moment, like an incense smoke that softly curls around our present senses.

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