Dreams really do come true. Keep dreaming!
Isn’t it fascinating the things we remember and the things we don’t. Growing up in a large family, it is safe to say most of my childhood memories and photographs include at least one family member. Actually, most if not all of my childhood photographs (and there aren’t many of them), include A LOT more than just one family member.
My earliest memory is from when I was less than 2 years old. I’ve heard that an extremely traumatic or painful experience can help cement a memory, and in my case, pain was involved. I would have never known my age, except after sharing this story with my older sisters, they were able to piece together the timing based on some of the details I had remembered. They figured out that it happened when my younger brother was born and the two of us happen to be exactly 18 months apart. It was also the only time they remembered our grandmother (we called her Granny) staying with us when one of ‘the babies’ was born. In our family birth order, I’m 8th and this baby brother would later be followed by the last two siblings, a boy and a girl.
My memory is of me running along with my siblings, from the one bathroom in our house to our parents’ bedroom closet. As soon as my siblings made it to either of these two places, they would immediately slam the door. For some reason, I’m betting it had something to do with the fact that I was running while wearing a diaper, I never seemed to get to either location in time before the door closed. I remember there was a lot of commotion and noise, along with a lot of laughing. Interestingly enough, that would actually still describe a typical Spence gathering to this day. Anyway, the door would fly open and they would all bolt out. The whole process would repeat all over again, from bathroom to closet and from closet to bathroom. Only here’s the part that made it a lifelong memory. I know I was too young to strategize, so I’m thinking, I probably was far enough from the door when it closed, that when the running progressed, I just turned around and started running with the pack. I finally made it to the closet, just in time to have the door slam closed … on my little fingers. The next thing I remember is sitting up high (on the kitchen counter) with Granny standing right in front of me. And standing next to Granny on both sides are my somber-faced siblings. That’s about all I remember. Although I am very happy to report that to this day, I still have all my fingers and they all work perfectly.
Now fast forward to when I was about 4 or 5 years old. Our family belonged to the one Catholic Church in our town and it was at most about a mile from our house. Back then, we had a big yellow station wagon and we would travel to and from places all packed inside. Based on my age, there would have been 12 of us, including my mom and dad, as the baby of the family hadn’t been born yet. It was summer. I remember I was wearing my favorite yellow dress, with no jacket or sweater. On this particular Sunday after Mass, my parents were standing on the sidewalk talking to some people and I am guessing my siblings were scattered talking or playing with friends or each other. I was kind of a dreamy little kid. I remember being in the grassy field next to the church and just meandering and taking in my little corner of the world. I was looking at the flowers that were growing in somewhat wild abandon along the side of the brick church…daisies, I think. One minute the street was filled with cars and the sidewalk with people, and the next minute they all were gone, except for one car and one couple. The couple noticed me standing all alone. They recognized me as one of the Spence kids and offered to give me a ride home. Only, I did NOT recognize them; to me they were strangers. I knew I was not allowed to ever take a ride with strangers – period. And that is exactly what I told them. They must have talked for a few moments. Because instead of getting a ride, I walked the whole way home, with them trailing alongside me in their car, driving … at… a… snail’s… pace. When I got home, my mom had either just realized I hadn’t made it home or maybe she had never even noticed I was gone. Heck, she had 10 kids and I wasn’t one of the noisy ones. I just remember when I showed up at the door, along with my new stranger friends in tow, getting hugged by my mom…tight.
One thing I don’t remember is being scarred or traumatized from my being left behind. Maybe my birth order had something to do with it or maybe my guardian angel was working overtime that day. Whatever the reason, I just remember being very happy and grateful to be home.