Got a minute? Stories my mother told me…



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.

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  1. George Kaplan
    September 5, 2014

    This is gorgeous! A memory in monochrome. I adore the notion of your mother projecting herself outside the pain of childbirth within her mind. I can only imagine how happy she was to see Baby Vickie.

    • September 6, 2014

      Prior to my birth she was reading “War and Peace”—and she also liked to remind me I was lucky not to be named Sonya or Natasha 😉 .

  2. September 5, 2014

    Makes me feel better about my black and white memory of being held by a grandparent. About 6 months old.

    • September 6, 2014

      Seriously??? Cyber-Sister!!! That is SO good to hear! xox, V

      • September 6, 2014


  3. Heather in Arles
    September 6, 2014

    Everything about this is just magical. I love when you share these stories. And that we both have food in our first memories too… 😉

    • September 6, 2014

      Okay, Doll—dish! What’s your first memory?

      • Heather in Arles
        September 6, 2014

        Really simple. I am sitting on the floor in the kitchen looking at my Mom who has just turned around with the door of the fridge still open behind her…all of this gorgeous light is surrounding her (from my view on the floor) and she is offering me frozen orange juice with bananas in it! Aka…pure happiness. 🙂
        I don’t know how old I was.

  4. September 7, 2014

    Great post! I can’t place what my first memory was, because I’m one of those people that creates memories from photographs I’ve seen and oft-told family stories. So I “remember” scenes that I’ve seen from my baby photos, even though I don’t think I actually remember them from the experience. I’m also really bad with remembering dates, so when I think of early memories, I have no idea what age I was when it happened.

    I do know that I drove my first car at 18 months, though. Mom had me in a car seat in the back, and she pulled into the driveway and ran in the house to get something. Snow was falling hard. I got out of my car seat, into the front seat, put the car in gear and backed out onto a busy street and swung the car in an arc, coming to rest on the front lawn of the house next door. Mom came out, blocking her eyes from the snow, heading for the car… and never got to the car. When she picked her head up and saw where the car was, she said I was standing on the driver’s seat, jumping up and down and crowing. She went and got me, and the car, and then cried for two hours straight. Probably because I could have been killed. Should have been because that was a foreshadowing of things to come – ha!

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