I’m not a big fan of blogging memes, because – let’s face it – they’re not really memes. Also, ever since I’ve started being hit with these things, I’ve been dying to use the pun title Meme Me in St. Louis. But the fact that I’ve never been to that city makes the gag seem inappropriate.
Still, I’ve been tagged by both OzAtheist and ordinary girl to take part in the “memory meme.” Since I put off my good friend OG the last time she tagged me, I’m not gonna snub her again. Ozatheist, a more recent acquaintance, gets a free ride on her coattails.
Anyway, The rules are:
1. Describe your earliest memory where this memory is clear, and where "clear" means you can depict at least three details;
2. Give an estimate of how old you were at this age; and
3. Tag five other bloggers with this meme.
I’m gonna tell you in advance that I won't be tagging anybody, so don’t go scrambling to find your name at the bottom of this post. If you haven’t been tagged already, and want to be, either consider yourself so, or send me an email and I’ll make the tag formal for the Atheosphere record books.
At my age, I sometimes have difficulty remembering what I did yesterday. So it’s almost impossible to sift through the mental clutter of my childhood, filled as it is with breakfast cereal jingles (all of which I can still sing on a dare), the tastes of sweets long ago taken off the market, and numerous instances of being told not to talk back. The child is father to the man, and I must admit that I still love to start the day with a bowl of crunchy goodness, stuff my face with cookies and candy and snack cakes, and talk back, not necessarily in that order.
I'm not able to pinpoint a specific incident that I can authoritatively say is my earliest memory. In general, though, I mostly remember watching a lot of TV. I mean a lot. This was back in the early 50s, and television was an amazing new toy. It was on constantly in my house.
When I was just four years old, in fact, I starred on my very own TV show. Hardly anyone knew about it except me. That was fine, though, because I was the only audience I cared about. From the time I woke up until the time I fell asleep, I kept up a running commentary for my sole viewer. "Notice the firemen on my pajamas this morning. Can we bring the camera in for a better look at them? Let's see if they've moved at all from where they were last night."
I was casual and personable, like Arthur Godfrey, who was ubiquitous on television and radio in the early '50s. Mom and I watched and listened to every one of his programs. Arthur Godfrey had a talent, rare in those days, of making housewives believe that he was talking directly to them. Mom sometimes answered questions that came over the airwaves. "I bet you like Lipton tea, doncha?" Arthur Godfrey would ask. "Not really," Mom would tell him, as she sipped her fifth cup of coffee.
I also asked questions during my continuous broadcast, and responded to them, too. "I bet you like chocolate milk, doncha?" "Oh, yeah, you can say that again."
Mom was entertained by this schizoid behavior. Occasionally, she allowed herself to appear on my show as what I called a "special guess."
"Let's ask Mom if she remembered to buy me Sugar Jets, shall we?"
"Well, Mr. Exterminator," she'd say, talking into the microphone that was my fist, "I think Sugar Jets are swell. But Rice Krinkles were on sale this week. I hope that's OK with the folks at home." Then she'd add, "Are you gonna sing something for us?"
Now and then, even Dad could be prevailed upon to make a cameo appearance. My father had aspirations, at one time, of being an opera singer. He had a wonderful tenor voice, but his dreams fell by the wayside when he had difficulty memorizing any aria other than "Vesti la Giubba" from Pagliacci. I liked hearing him sing that because there’s this “laugh, Clown, laugh” moment in it, where the grieving singer bursts into an ironic “Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha.” My father could really milk that sucker for all it was worth.
Anyway, he’d usually oblige me. When he was finished, he'd shout into my hand, "Did you like that, folks? Did you? Well why don't you give me my own damn show, f'cryinoutloud! All I need is a coupla cue cards and I could be a star!"
This always got me annoyed because I thought it was inappropriate to compete with me during my personal airtime.
"Just kidding, people," I'd say.
"Are you apologizing for your father?" Dad would ask, actually getting angry. "Y'know, when I was a kid, if I ever apologized for my father, he'd give me something to really feel sorry about!"
"Honey," Mom would explain, "it's not a real show."
"Do me something, Baby," Dad would yell, "but real isn't an issue here. You don't apologize for a father. Ever! Not just on TV. Ever!"
Mom and Dad weren't the only ones who got into the act. Whenever Nanny, my mother’s mother, visited, I'd introduce her to my viewers. "Well will you look who's sitting in our studio audience, ladies and gentlemen? It's Nanny. Why don't you stand up, Nanny, and take a bow?"
She'd cover my little hand/mike with her palm so nobody else could hear. "Do me a favor, and tell them: I hadda stand on the subway the whole ride here, my feet are killing me, I'm not that big a celebrity they need to make such a fuss. I'll just sit and wave."
"Nanny, everyone!" I'd cheer.
Mom would applaud. Dad would shake his head and mutter, "That's some pffffffff program you got there. " By “pfffffff” he meant “fucking,” but I didn’t figure that out until much later, long after the network of imagination had cancelled my show.