My favourite bus driver was driving when I got the bus home from work, so I sat right at the front so we could chat. We talked for the whole journey (about 50 minutes), and somewhere in all the chat we started talking about our earliest memories.
My earliest memory was from when I was about 4. My dad took my out onto the front step of our house so show me the birds all lined up on the overhead cables with their suitcases under their wings, ready to fly south for winter. I can remember it as clear as it was yesterday; I remember not quite being able to see the suitcases, but knowing they were there because my dad told me they were.
After that, my memories seem to start properly from the age of 5 or 6. Jon, my bus driver, said he can’t remember anything before the age of 4, and it’s very sketchy that far back.
Why is that?
We learnt so much before the age of four that we still remember now. I learnt to talk, walk, think – and so much more. If we can remember how to do the things we learnt when we were toddlers, why can’t we remember what we did back then too?
Do our brains decide that the early stuff isn’t relevant? Has my brain decided that the full and complete lyrics to Turtle Power (by Partners in Kryme) is more important than what I got for my 3rd birthday?
What criteria does it use to choose which memories to save and which to erase? Is it based on what it thinks will be more useful to us in the future. If that’s the case then I have to question my sanity. I mean, seriously… Turtle Power??!
As an adult, I know that if I’m not really paying attention then I won’t remember things I’m supposed to. This is proven to me regularly when I accidentally daydream during a meeting with my boss. It almost follows then, that when we’re toddlers we don’t concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds. So is that why we don’t have the memories from our early years? Were we too young to pay attention to our own lives?
Image: Birds on a Wire, by DawnAllynnStock