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Saturday, October 24, 2015

It's Chicken Man

They (whoever they are) say you can't remember anything prior to about 4 years of age, unless there is a trauma attached to it, which explains my first ever childhood memory. This a the 2nd in a 3 part series of childhood memories.

My parents were young when they married.  After a couple of years I came along and 20 months after me, came My Beloved Sister.  By the time they were in their early 20's, mom was a SAHM and Dad was not only the bread winner by day but was also attending college at night.  Throw in the two of us and their life was in a chaotic frenzy.

One of Dad's professors was very involved in the local Children's Theater and offered an
"A" in the class and also and "A" for the next quarter's class to anyone who would be a part of the upcoming production.  Dad was quite the student (Magna Cum Laude) and probably would have made an "A" anyway, but this was not only one "A" but also the promise of the next "A" without having to go to class which would free up time for him to take another course.  Like I said he was a smart guy.

They held auditions and Dad was cast as the male lead.  I have no recollection of how long they rehearsed.  All I knew was Dad was going to be in a play.  When it got time for the show to go live Mother and I got all dressed up, took My Beloved Sister to Grandmother's and went on our merry way to the play. (The only part of this I remember is climbing the stairs from the street to Grandmother's front yard.  I remember her meeting us there and have no idea why we didn't park in the back since that is how we normally went in their house. (Probably because there were about 25 steps from the street to the house level)  Anyway, I remember waving goodbye to them as we walked down the stairs and I remember getting into the back seat of the car. (Yeah, no stinking car seat for me or any other kid of my era.  They hadn't been invented yet.)

I am assuming the ride to the theater was uneventful because my next memory is being in the audience and things were happening on stage.  My dad was there in an outfit with a cool hat and a cape.  There was also a beautiful blond with long curly hair, and a woman, a bad woman, in a long black dress with wild dark hair.  I could not begin to tell you the storyline or what anything was about, but I can tell you what happened next.  The bad woman in black threw what I remember as a ball shaped object toward Dad, there was a huge puff of smoke which obscured most of the stage for a few moments and when the smoked cleared there was the bad woman in black, the beautiful blond with long curly hair and a man sized chicken wearing my dad's hat and his cape.

There was a brief moment of panic on my part then full out terror.  I remember crying and crying then being unable to catch my breath as Mother rushed me from the theater.  According to her I was not just crying but was screaming at the top of my lungs "Where my Daddy Go".

There was a small courtyard outside the hall leading to the auditorium and we hurried out there.  Mom sat on a concrete bench and held unconsolable me rocking me back and forth. I remember holding on the her as tight as toddler arms can hold, the rocking motion, and crying and grieving .  None of her soothing had any effect on me.  I have no idea how long we were out there, but I remember a very kind usher who came into the courtyard to see if she could help.  I remember her telling me not to cry, that it was just pretend, and then she gave me a magic"happy" pill, which was a peppermint candy. I remember clearly her opening it for me and I remember putting it in my mouth.

This is where my personal memory of that tragic day ends. The remains of it have been reconstructed for me.  Evidently the peppermint was enough of a distraction that I settled down and Mom and I stayed in the courtyard until the play was over.  After the curtain call the cast moved out into the hall and I was able to see my dad in his human form again and all was right with my little two year old world.  It was a pretty long time before anyone took me to a play again, though.  And to this day I find the aroma of peppermint immensely soothing.  Could be from this or it could be because peppermint is just a pleasant smell?  No idea, but I do know for one moment it's smell and taste were magic for a two year old kid.

12 comments:

  1. Wow! I can understand why you were frightened. I'm surprised you sat in the backseat. In olden, golden times before car seats, I sat or stood on the front seat while my mom drove the car. If I had cried at a play, my mom would have taken me out and slapped me and told me to shut up. I hope I haven't told you this memory before, but when I was 30 or so years old I told my mom that I remembered going to visit an old lady who was in bed. My dad was carrying me. The old woman had brightly colored glass objects on the table next to her bed. My mom said, Why, that was Ottie (her mom's sister). You couldn't have been more than two years old.

    I think she said the glass objects were carnival glass--something people collect now. I don't recall any trauma associated with the day.

    I told my mom about a number of memories I had. She confirmed that I was two or three years old when these events took place. I associate trauma with only one or two of the memories.

    I guess I have an unusual memory. A friend of mine who is a psychologist is amazed at how much I remember from our high school years, almost forty years ago. I told her that most of the time I remember things by pictures in my mind. She confirmed what I already suspected: I have a photographic memory. It's not perfect. If I read a word and see it the wrong way, then it's stuck in my brain in its incorrect form. I have a hard time getting rid of memories. They pile up in my brain. On the other hand, I have absolutely no memory of some events.

    I'm glad your dad did not turn into a chicken permanently.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Cool that you can remember odd details. I do not have an eidetic memory, but I have synesthesia so my senses get crossed sometimes (most of the time). Until I was an adult I thought everyone saw colors when they ate.

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    2. Wow, I didn't know that you had synesthesia. I find the whole idea of how some brains work that way fascinating.

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    3. I didn't know I did until I was an adult. I thought what I experienced was the norm.

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  2. Car seats? Not in my youth either. My youngest brother was relegated to the floor in the back, and his older brothers rested their feet on him. I, being youngest, got to share the front seat. And had my hair pulled from behind.
    Your poor two year old self. That must have been terrifying - and perhaps a tad embarrassing for your parents.
    I suspect the peppermint soothers does date back to that day.

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    1. I remember going on car trips and making a bed on the ledge where the window and back seat met. I also remember my sister's car seat. It was a canvas sling seat that hung over the front seat via 2 hooks that looked like old umbrella handles. (I really am showing my age huh?) I was jealous because it had a steering wheel at about belly level and My Beloved Sister could "drive" No restraints at all except Mom's arm that she would fling in front of her whenever she came to a stop.

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  3. When I was about 30, I told my mother about a memory of gathering persimmons. I went into detail and she was stunned because she said I had only turned two the month before. I then told her things that happened before the persimmon incident. She was even more stunned. I told her I could remember the layout of the one room house and proceeded to tell her and even describe the furniture. I have read that memories kick in when a child knows she or he is a separate person and not just an extension of a parent...or something like that.
    Practical Parsimony

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  4. Thanks for sharing. I remember nothing before the chicken incident, but after that I can recall a lot.

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  5. It must have been very traumatic for your 2 year old self to see your dad transformed into a chicken!

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    1. It was, but life continued and he kept us laughing until he was nearly 84

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  6. I have heard that you get memories when you start talking. Who knows? My earliest memories are when I am two also.

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    1. We laugh within our family. My Beloved Sister remembers almost nothing until she was about 8.

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