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My First Memory

July 10, 2011

I remember sitting on furry brownish-green 1970s carpet in our house in Castro Valley (Hayward), California. Above me was my pregnant mom, sitting in the old upholstery-covered rocking chair. She was cross-stitching something (not an uncommon activity for my mom). The room was dark – whether it was night or day I don’t know. But I remember darkness. I remember artificial light – a fire place ablaze or a lamp perhaps.

What are you making? I asked.

A new comforter for your bed, Mom said.

It was colorful, with needlepoint images of farm animals and the words Old MacDonald’s Farm at the top of the barn. She would later attach the cross-stitching to red material to make the comforter and a yellow trim bordered Old MacDonald’s Farm.

But I don’t want it, I said.

You don’t have to have it, Mom said. I’ll give it to the baby.

But I don’t want the baby to have it either, I said.

Mom didn’t argue with me. She sat quietly, concentrating on her sewing. I was feeling ambivalent – about the comforter and this new baby coming into my life.

Mom sewing the comforter. Ambivalence. And our old home. These are the elements that make up the first memory I can recall. I was 3-years-old.

I must have made peace with the blanket my mom made for me since the comforter lay on my bed for many years to come. Mom later removed the Old MacDonald’s sewing and mounted it within a red frame, which hung in my bedroom for as long as I can remember.

The beautiful framed comforter – lovingly made for me by my mom – now hangs in Sophie’s room, with no ambivalence associated with it.

The actual Old MacDonald's Farm comforter, stitched with love by my mom

49 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2011 11:40 pm

    What beautiful needle work she did! That is such an interesting first memory as well. I am hard pressed to come up with one myself. Funny though, just today my Krista and I were talking about hand made heirlooms, and what was kept, and what was not. This is a precious one, both needlework and the post!

    • July 12, 2011 11:54 am

      Thanks, Kim. I am so lucky we still have it!

  2. Apolonio Chavez permalink
    July 11, 2011 12:44 am

    Awww! This is great! I ♥ your mom! She’s cool! I am glad you hung on to it. Great memory too. My earliest memory is probably being in the crib, and waiting for mom to come pick me up, and feeling alone as I waited…

    • July 12, 2011 11:54 am

      Thanks, Polo! I read somewhere that first memories tend to be ones filled with fear or conflict. They’re not often our happiest memories. That may explain yours too.

  3. July 11, 2011 3:47 am

    The quilt is beautiful. Maybe you’ll teach Sophie to cross-stitch one day. Or any handicrafts. I love knitting but my mother does it all- needlework, knitting, sewing, and so on. When our first grandson was born, I gave my son the baby blanket my mother had knit for him. I hadn’t saved many of the handknits- most got passed down to nieces and nephews so was happy to have this. Impressed you had a first memory- I struggled and couldn’t come up with one! Sadly I think it might be when I was 5 and my baby sister died of SDS.

    • July 12, 2011 11:55 am

      I was telling another commentor that I read our first memories tend to be ones of sadness or fear. That would explain yours. … I hope Sophie can learn to do that type of craft. I didn’t inherit my mom’s love of sewing, though I wish I did!

  4. July 11, 2011 4:34 am

    How lovely! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. July 11, 2011 5:06 am

    Lovely – what an amazing heritage piece. I have no doubt that Sophie will pass it down to her daughter, too.

    • July 12, 2011 11:56 am

      Thanks, Ann. I hope Sophie does treasure it as I have.

  6. July 11, 2011 6:50 am

    Wow, what a sweet and special memento that has been passed down! I like the idea of transitioning the comforter to a framed piece. Leah, can you please develop a blog category of “When Caryn Has Kids” so I can keep all these ideas in one place?! 🙂

  7. July 11, 2011 7:12 am

    Aw. I love it. What a sweet post.

    • July 12, 2011 11:57 am

      Thanks for your nice words and for commenting.

  8. July 11, 2011 7:46 am

    Your mother’s cross-stitch is charming. It’s wonderful that you still have the treasure and early childhood memories to go along with it.

    • July 12, 2011 11:57 am

      Thanks, Shary. Yes, I’m lucky I have both the piece and memory that I treasure.

  9. July 11, 2011 9:01 am

    It sounds like you have a wonderfully loving mother, Leah, and it’s so wonderful that you have recorded this memory down. My first memory also involves light. I remember how the sunlight poured in through the curtained window and made cubes dance across the blanket in my crib. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but the yellow sunlight matched the comforter and matched my curtains. That must be why it fascinated me so. I’m so glad that your comforter is now in Sophie’s room. What a sweet tradition!

    • July 12, 2011 12:07 pm

      Thanks, Jolina. I love your first memory too. Interesting how light came into play in both of ours. It’s been interesting remembering these old times.

  10. July 11, 2011 9:29 am

    Aw, what a sweet Mom you have. I’m so glad she preserved the special needle point she made for you. I bet it was pretty as a comforter too. And to hand it down to the next generation, is just the best. 🙂

    • July 12, 2011 12:08 pm

      Thank you! Yes, I’m very blessed my mom kept that and I can now pass it on to Sophie. She is so talented with these needlepoint treasures.

  11. July 11, 2011 10:14 am

    I love this post Leah because you brought it full circle. I can think of some things that I have put tremendous effort into for my children and they just kind of shrugged off, so it’s nice to think there’s hope!

    • July 12, 2011 12:09 pm

      Thanks, Elizabeth! Yes, there’s hope. Luckily I came to love the comforter as much as my baby sister!

  12. July 11, 2011 10:21 am

    What a sweet story! And how wonderful that you still have that comforter. It’s adorable, and clearly an incredible amount of loving work went into it.

    My earliest memory is brief, because I was only about 1 1/2. The grandmother who raised me was putting me into a stroller for a walk to White Front, the discount department store around the corner. I was wearing a red dress, and I remember being aware that it was my favorite, and that I was excited “Mom” was taking me out. She took me to White Front a lot, and when I was a toddler I often wandered off and got lost. I still remember enjoying the fuss the clerks made over me as they announced on the intercom, “We have a little lost girl.” I was always a wanderer, and still am.

    • July 12, 2011 12:10 pm

      Thanks for your nice comments. Wow, that’s great you remember back to 1 1/2! And what a great story too. Interesting how you recognize that characteristic in you now at such an early experience.

  13. July 11, 2011 10:23 am

    Leah – this is beautiful, both the memory and the quilt. Some memories should be framed and hung for all to see. What is special here is that one day Sophie will have this to gift, it is one of those treasures that continues to pay forward. I never had the patience for this type of activity but I appreciate the skill and love people invest in it. It’s lovely.

    • July 12, 2011 12:05 pm

      Thank you, Brenda! I’m glad Sophie can enjoy it too. Sadly I don’t have the patience either. So maybe it will skip my generation and go to Sophie.

  14. July 11, 2011 10:38 am

    Thanks for sharing this memory. It’s cool that you remember it so clearly. Now i’m trying to figure out my first memory . . .

  15. July 11, 2011 11:37 am

    What a beautiful comforter and a beautiful memory! (and so young, too!) I need to figure out what my earliest memory is — I can’t remember 🙂 Both my kids and they have very vivid early memories, and it’s fascinating to hear them! Interesting post!

    • July 12, 2011 12:04 pm

      Thanks, Julia. It’s funny what we tend to remember and forget. I don’t remember anything before this. But my memories start floating back around the time my sister was born. Guess that was the life-changing moment for me. I’m eager to see what Sophie remembers too.

  16. July 11, 2011 11:50 am

    That comfortable is so adorable. and I can see where you get your love of color and happy outlook, Leah. What a special memory!

    • July 12, 2011 12:03 pm

      Thanks, Cynthia! And what a great observation about the color and happiness. Hadn’t noticed that before!

  17. July 11, 2011 1:04 pm

    How wonderful to still have that comforter and to be able to recall that memory from age three. Your brain must be clipping it off much better than mine because I might be able to come up with something from age six or so, but little before that…certainly not as terrific as this piece of time in your life. Love that the framed comforter now resides in Sophie’s room. A fitting place for it. Thanks for the memories!

    • July 12, 2011 12:02 pm

      Thank you, Annie! It’s funny what we remember. My husband’s earliest memories aren’t until about age 5. Guess it just depends on what our brains think is important.

  18. July 11, 2011 5:20 pm

    I love stories that take me back in time. Thank you for sharing your memories.

    • July 12, 2011 12:01 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting (as always)!

  19. July 11, 2011 6:03 pm

    I don’t know how a comforter can bring me to tears, but it has. What a beautiful memory. And so very toddler-ish (I have a 3 yo whose middle name is Ambivalence). Visiting from She Writes.

    • July 12, 2011 12:01 pm

      Oh, Laura, thanks so much! I’ll have to check out your blog as my 3-year-old has that quality too!

  20. July 11, 2011 7:42 pm

    You mom did beautiful needlework! That’s such a precious memory to have tucked away, and even better that you have this physical memento as a reminder 🙂

    My earliest memory is from a Christmas Eve when I was 3… my Dad & Mom & I were getting into the cold car in the dark on our way to visit the live nativity scene. And my Dad “forgot his gloves”. Years later I came to learn that my Dad always “forgot” something & would run into the house to put out the Christmas presents “from Santa”. (We did our gifts on Christmas Eve back then.) So that when we returned I thought Santa had arrived!

    Thanks for sharing… it’s nice to revisit warm & fuzzy feelings!! lol

    • July 12, 2011 12:00 pm

      Denise, I LOVE that memory you shared! What a touching story (almost brought tears to my eyes). Thanks for your nice words about my memory and the quilt!

  21. July 11, 2011 8:22 pm

    What a loving story and quilt Leah! I have a tablecloth of my mom’s that was the only possession she had when she got married and came to the US from Germany after the war. I’ve had it put away since she passed away 6 years ago not knowing what to do with it, but your post gave me the idea to frame it and hang it for the loving memory it is. Thank you!

    • July 12, 2011 11:59 am

      I’m so glad this could inspire you to frame your mom’s tablecloth! What an amazing keepsake you have! You’ll have to include that somehow in your book too.

  22. July 11, 2011 9:50 pm

    Beautiful memory and beautiful needlework! Thanks for sharing such a great story!

  23. July 12, 2011 11:01 am

    Thanx for the beautiufl blog, Boo. I, too, remember stitching that for you and when you said you didn’t want it. I imagined you just didn’t want a baby sister rather than the quilt so that’s why I told you didn’t have to have the quilt. How I loved doing thee cross-stitching and embroidery. I think Sophie got the last hand crafted baby announcement. These hands just aren’t what they used to be. Make me so of sad, too, because I has such a passion for this craft as well as what it would bring to others. Beautiful and memory inducing blog, Boo. 😉
    ❤U, Mom❤

    • July 12, 2011 11:58 am

      Thank YOU, mom! Sophie loves looking at all the pieces you made for me. I know she’ll treasure them too. And I’m glad I came to love the quilt and my baby sister!

  24. July 13, 2011 7:41 am

    For some reason, reading this reminded me of a series of children’s stories I used to love, “Little Bear.” Much of Little Bear had to do with the bear’s relationship with his mother. So simple, so sweet. Well, my friend, you have here the premise of a children’s book. I can picture it as one, right down to the needlepoint-type illustrations. Absolutely beautiful, comforting, and warm. Perfect read for kids with siblings on the way!

  25. July 14, 2011 7:05 am

    I love this!! Oh my. It is beautiful. My first memory occurred on vacation with my family. I remember seeing crabs in the sand and running to a lifeguard chair and attempting to climb to safety. I suppose that was fear induced! And now I love to eat crab- sweet revenge on that early memory!

    • July 17, 2011 11:02 pm

      What a great first memory! Thanks for sharing.

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