Summer days as a kid were by far my favorite times growing up. I used to spend nearly every one of them at my Uncle’s pool eating roast beef sandwiches on an overgrown, gravelly poolside that could cut your feet if you weren’t careful. The pool-house was full of mystery and entirely covered in poison ivy, but that didn’t stop us from venturing inside to gain access to the epic alligator floats of yesteryear.
When I got older, I spent nearly every day in the company of my good friend, who was a member of a local pool club tucked into the woods. The adults left us alone in the shady grove, where we’d utilize the extra lounge chairs as our secret forts. We spent all our quarters on endless rounds of PacMan and our daily allowance on mozzarella sticks (still my favorite summertime indulgence). I learned how to dive at that swimming pool, how do my first butterfly stroke there, was kissed on the cheek by a boy, and got my first bee sting. These hot days were some of the most special of my life – full of the effortless enjoyment that only children can have.
It’s no wonder, then, that my earliest childhood memory was during summer too. I can’t remember much from the time I was a small kid, bits, and pieces thrown together from grainy VHS videos and snapshots, so to even have this memory is kind of incredible. It’s like the foggy image you see of the doctor when being put under or the sensation of waking up with the faint recollection of a dream. While I have no idea how old I was or any sense of my physical self, I remember, most vividly, looking out of an upstairs window at sunset and seeing an animatronic gorilla on the corner across the street. I suppose that’s not something your young mind would ever forget (and perhaps the reason of my extreme fear of monkeys), but I can remember everything about that image: the colors of the shop lighting, the angle of view, and the sense that something special was through that window.
My mother told me I must have been two-years-old at the time. TWO! For someone like me who can’t remember much before ten, that boggled my mind. I’ve thought of that animatronic gorilla for years, never realizing it was from such an early time in my life, and knowing that it is possibly my earliest memory is quite confounding.
Here’s the backstory to this weird memory: my Uncle (the same one who owned the pool when I was older), had bought a delicatessen somewhere along the New Jersey shore. It sold food, beach-wares, and all kinds of things a convenience store would carry. From what my mother told me, there was an apartment on the upper level of the building, and we were all invited to stay there for a few days. Across the street lived an ice cream store with a giant moving gorilla outside. It was open late, covered in lights, and was super memorable given the ostentatious primate beckoning for customers. Before bed, as the evening took hold, I must have stuck my head over the windowsill and taken a peek at the scene below, the neon and fluorescent lights illuminating the little corner like a beacon. I guess I never forgot my first view!
Isn’t it strange what our young minds hold onto? It seems like such a specific instance that I can remember, both in the scene and in the fact that there isn’t anyone else in it. Just the monkey, moving its arms like an old theme park attraction.
Do you know what your earliest childhood memory is? Share with me in the comments below! And if you missed it, be sure to read last week’s opinion piece on lost things here!