Pictured above is Shirley MacLaine in a film (of doubtful entertainment value) called My Geisha, released in 1962.
The maternal one was very intrigued by all things Japanese in the early sixties. I have clippings from the paper of her doing esoteric floral arrangements—and I remember when I was very young—handleless cups coming off her potter’s wheel while I sunk my hands into slip, or poked them into cool mounds of clay. At any rate, she always told this apocryphal tale about my birth (apocryphal: adjective, of of doubtful origin or authenticity). She said, instead of the medications of the day which they handed out for labor, she opted for a natural child birth and self-hypnosis.
Which for mom meant doing an entire Japanese tea ceremony, in a formal kimono—in her head. She said she didn’t feel a thing and when the ceremony was over, there I was.
If Mom were alive today she would have told the story with asides and delicate precise details about the flip of her sleeve, or the whisking of the tea. She would also tell you she conversed with me constantly as an infant, and add that I started answering at six months. Which, with a bow to my departed parents of deep respect, is complete hooey. Babies may mimic cadence, but it’s not talking.
That said, I know language is linked with memory and cognition. I’m fortunate in that I have three older siblings and they can verify my memories and give them dates, addresses, and another eye-witness account. But my very first memory, unlike the others, is in black and white and I think it predated my comprehension of language. It goes like this. I am in a baby carriage, my mother is steering me down a sidewalk canopied by trees and lined with shiny shop windows. We stop in front of a window with a striped awning hung above and enter an ice cream parlor; glass cases, five gallon tubs of ice cream, tiled floor. Mom gets a sugar cone, and takes a lick of glossy black ice cream…
You got it. The only eye-witness was Mom. When I asked about this recollection of mine she gave me the location of the ice cream parlor, said she was especially partial to licorice ice cream, and that I must have been about six months old.
Moral: don’t ever argue with your mother.