My First Memory

I always found fascinating the way the first few years of your life seem to be covered by impenetrable mental fog. My niece is closing on two and it’s weird to think that she’s unlikely to remember anything from what’s happening now.

It seems to vary from person to person, but my first four years are a complete blank and the first string of solid memories I have is from when I was five and in my last year of kindergarden. I’ve seen earlier photos of myself playing with my little cousins from when we lived with my Dad’s brother in another city, but I can remember absolutely nothing from that period. The only early memory that stands out is when I got baptised in the Russian Orthodox tradition, apparently on my grandmother’s insistence.

I’m with my Mum, who is holding me in her arms. We’re in a dark crowded space with low ceiling. I’m wearing a woolen dark-green dress with a white collar. Then I remember being picked up by a priest with a long beard, who murmurs something while dunking me inside a vessel filled with water (that’s full submersion, none of that soft stuff with sprinkling a few drops on your head). I of course scream and wail my head off, as does every other child in the church.

My first ever musical memory is bouncing on a bed to ABBA’s Dancing Queen. I wanted to sing along, but of course I couldn’t know the English lyrics, so I made up my own.

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