Is there memory before words?
I have memories stored in my body. My shoulders are my pet rocks. Even though they are scrawny and unremarkable, they never relax, and in fact spend much of their time right below my ears. I tend to always have a stomach ache. To stop the endless questions concerning why I’m not eating more, I tell people I was born with a hundred year old stomach, or that I have a gastric disability. Most healthy, interesting, or tasty food is off limits for me. I can get muscle cramps anywhere, even in my toes.
Somehow my ears remember. They don’t hurt. My ears love crunching sounds, birds, and crickets. I’ll wrap myself under a window in a quilt in the spring in the early mornings to catch the first bird song, and I’ll do the same in the fall at night to catch the last of the crickets. I have a noise machine that sounds like crickets.
I recently found out why I’m like when my first grandchild was born. The baby refused to be left alone, or even put down, for many months. Her parents and I tried, but her furious and persistent cries rendered any attempt unsuccessful. My own babies only wanted to be held when they were awake too, but it was this child, her great-granddaughter, that stirred something up for my mother. All of a sudden my mother told me for the first time that for most of the first six months of my life she had left me in a carriage out by the road. I went back to the old house to check this out, and it is almost half a football field from the little country house to the road.
I asked her why she did that. She answered “You liked it there.”
So now I get it. In those days babies were placed on their stomachs so I doubt I could see anything in the carriage. But I could hear the birds and the crickets. The crunching sounds continued to be a puzzle, however. One can’t ask my mother direct questions because she will always lie, but I found out a way to ask her about the driveway out to the road. Since the house was near Long Island Sound, in those days the driveway consisted of dirt and clam shells. So the sound of crunching clam shells meant someone was coming to feed me or maybe even pick me up. Wordless memories are quite remarkable.