I remember being in the kitchen of our flat in
Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I was born. I am sitting at the table, my feet dangling down from the chair. Suddenly there is something noisy and unusual happening. Beating swirls through the air, sudden movement in front, behind, all around. What is it?
“Oh, a bird!” my mother says.
A bird. But birds are quiet things. I see them outside. They fly silently, they hop, they peck, they fit smoothly into the nature of things.
Now here is a bird of chaos, all wrong, just because it is in the wrong place. I wonder at it. I am delighted and a little bit afraid. The random dashing movement through the air is hard to see. It is hard to understand. A bird? This is not what that word means!
My mother runs around the kitchen as the bird swoops and dives and bumps. Why is she doing that? It is exciting and puzzling.
And then it’s quiet again.
“It’s gone,” says my mother. The kitchen is just a kitchen.
This is what I ‘remember’ as being my earliest memory. It’s hard to know what is an early memory: sequence and order not being that significant in the mind of a child. How old was I? In what I see, I feel small, everything else is big. Part of why I identify it as being so early is the sense of wonder and surprise that something I had definite associations with was ‘being’ something else, it was a world view re-making.
So my earliest memory is of surprise, curiosity, wonder at the world and how it changes.