Earliest memory meme

I shan’t be picking five bloggers to continue this thing. However, like last time, I invite anyone and everyone to comment here if they want to keep it going, or participate in this discussion (of sorts).From the big comments to the short, they are all most welcome.

The earliest clear memory I have is finding a shell in the backyard. Ok, not exactly interesting, so let me flesh it out. When I was a kid, and all the way through primary school, like most boys, I was fascinated with dinosaurs. I was confident that I would become a paleontologist and live all things prehistoric.

My mother is a keen gardener, and one day she had gone outside to do some planting in the garden – and I suspect I followed with my tools and toys to ‘help out’. It was a sunny day. I can remember digging around in the dirt of a flowerbed that ran across the back of the house, underneath a bush that has green and red leaves (pretty common, though I don’t know the name), and then hitting what I thought to be a rock. It is probably worth mentioning that I collected rocks for a good 16 years of my life. Whenever I went anywhere I took a rock away – from my grandparents house to Scotland. So finding a rock in the garden was more interesting than it would seem to any normal person.Then again, I would have been something like 3 at the time, so not really a normal person anyway.

I tried to dig around it (I treated it like a great find) and as I dug I began to realise that it wasn’t a rock, rather a shell. But not just any shell – a big shell. I’m no shell-ologist, and I don’t even know how to find a Wiki page that relates to this type of shell, so I can’t help you there. I know that I got really excited when I found it – living in south-west Sydney (or, in the way I visualised it then: a million miles away from water) I didn’t expect to find this shell. I pulled it out the ground, caked in dirt and what have you. My mother, responding to my glee, came over and suggested that we wash it up to see what it looks like. I think that some of my excitement rubbed off onto her – though maybe it was her maternal instincts and the chance to have one of ‘those moments’ with her son. You’d have to ask her.

We would have put it into an empty ice-cream container – I can’t say for sure, however, we had millions around the house back in the day. I do remember the whole process of putting it into water and swishing it around – going so far as to brushing off some of the now mud with a brush. Eventually it was clean and a beautiful shell. I felt something then that I would call a mix of pride and happiness. I had discovered a shell, treated it, and it was mine now.

Eventually, years down the track, we were building a new house, and when we were packing up our contents to move out for six months, it was suggested we throw out the shell. I immediately said no – almost protectively – and the shell stopped becoming something that was displayed around the house (as it had been all these years) to be my shell.

The story continues. When we moved into our new house, I decided that the shell deserved to be in the bathroom. It fitted with the whole design and what have you. Also, there were jars and pots of other shells – but none as big as the shell I had found. And that’s where it is now; in the bathroom, holding some plastic marine animals. Here’s a few photos of it, now, without the animals:


One thing I used to do in the bath, which was very ‘relaxing’ was clean the shell. Years after it had all the dirt washed off, I eventually got it to look really good by using a toothbrush and ear swab. Unfortunately all the wetting and drying, and handling, took its toll and parts began to fall off. In those photos you can see that one end is rather jagged and doesn’t complete the circle. It used to be more full, but parts have crumbled and chipped off progressively. Also, some of the layers on the outside (the cover being the inside) have begun to flake off. A part came off when I picked it up for those photos even.

Anyway, that’s the whole story about my earliest memory and the shell. I suspect I’ve remembered that (and forgot 99% of the rest of my childhood) because I had a tangible item the whole time to touch and feel and help me remember finding it. I think I’ll always have that shell – I like it. It serves to remind me of a more simple time when I didn’t have to worry about things – no university or school, jobs or mundane tasks, when I could do things with my mother and when I was a good son.



5 thoughts on “Earliest memory meme

  1. An enjoyable read Thomas. When I was growing up, we had a shell that looked similar particularly in its colouring. My mother would occasionally use it as an ashtray. đŸ™‚ It didn’t have the same meaning to her, probably because I didn’t unearth it in the backyard.

    “..and when I was a good son.” Does this mean that you are a ‘bad’ son now?

  2. Does this mean that you are a ‘bad’ son now?

    I’ll go with yeah, I’m a pretty dodgey son now. I’m certainly not as good a son as I was then. And thanks for the positive feedback.

  3. Hello Thomas,
    it’s a very enjoyable post. Could be nice to have it published at Memorycemetery (www.memorycemetery.com): the thing is, there are already few first memories; and we are trying to figure out more about first memories and mementos, apart of other things.
    Please have a look at http://www.memorycemetery.com/about ; hope you’ll like the idea. If so, hope to see it (and other memories and dreams there).
    It is win-win situation, as our readers/memories researchers could enjoy it too, and you can have an active link to this space forwarding to you more visitors.

    Thank you,

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