#SATurday My False Memories and Her Smile
Recently, I was watching a documentary on Netflix. (I will take this moment to declare Netflix the evil force fighting against writers and their precious time.) But – yes – I was on Netflix, which is fairly new to me, and I was zoning out to a documentary called The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology – which was awesome, by the way. At one point, the speaker, Slavoj Zizek, spoke about first memories. It was a fleeting moment of the film, but the moment struck me, and I began contemplating my own first memories.
I use the word “contemplating” on purpose. I’m never sure if my first memories are “real” memories or a result of false memory syndrome. For those of you who don’t know what FMS is, it basically refers to memories that aren’t real but memories we believe are real. And I know I have a lot of those. (Ironic, eh?)
I’m not ashamed that I’ve filled my brain up with a lot of false memories. I think it happened naturally, and I mainly site growing up on the road as the cause. Since I never had triggers for memories, so to speak, I lost a lot of memories, and I know I did because I have spoken to many old childhood friends who have a lot more memories than I do. But this resulted in me filling in the gaps, and I’m not too ashamed of it. How could I be? It might have been my first practice at creating stories, and creating stories is my ultimate passion. I find myself in them.
That being said, I did wonder what my first memory was. I have memories of living in Tulsa and taking homemade jam out of my great-grandmother’s tornado shelter, but we could’ve been visiting, so it’s impossible to say if I was 3 or 5 or 8. I have memories of my husky Shadow running in and out of the woods, but we did that in three states from the ages of 4 to 15. The types of trees shift, and the shadow on his face he was named after eventually faded away, but – again – it’s impossible to accurately say how old I was.
Most of the memories I have that I can guarantee my age in is when my brother or a friend was involved. By seeing them, I can calculate my own age, but if my memory is of me alone, it’s impossible, and I was alone quite often. I often played Pretty Pretty Princess and Trouble with three Furbys sitting around the board, two of which were my brother’s, but I definitely learned how to play board games with stuffed animals as my competitors. And…I still lost. Sometimes. (I had to keep it interesting.)
Now, if I had to “pick” a memory that I know my age and feel as if it is truly real, I would talk about my bus driver.
She was an older woman, and I never saw her stand up from her seat. Her hair was mostly gone, and she never spoke a lot, but my four-year-old self was enamored with her. From the moment I saw her, I wanted to see her smile.
I was four at the time and living in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We lived at the top of a steep hill – so steep my neighbors and I actually got snow days from the bus being unable to drive up it (which is a rarity in the north) – and our front yard had three tiers that were about three feet tall a piece. My mother grew flowers on the first tier, but now that I’m older, I half-suspect she bought these from the store every week for me to pluck up because that’s exactly what I did.
Every spring morning, right before the bus driver showed up, I would grab my ladder (I had to use a ladder), and I would climb up the tier and pick a handful of little flowers out. And I would wait. I would sit on top of the tier until I saw the bus coming up the hill, and then, I would jump off (something my parents hated), and I would run to the bus, flowers in hand.
I started doing this for one reason.
When I gave my bus driver flowers – no matter how little or dirty they were – she smiled, and although she didn’t have all of her teeth, I still think her smile is one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever seen my entire life.
And yet, I do not know her name.
But I hope she’s smiling somewhere. She stays smiling in my memories – as my first memory – and I think she was the person to teach me how much a smile can change someone’s life.
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