A Memory Monday post.
My earliest cross-cultural memory is also my earliest memory, and I used to think that was significant back when I was working in a highly multi-ethnic community in East London. Now most of the people I know locally are white (a fact which sometimes still causes me consternation–I feel like I’m missing out on a multiplicity of cultural experiences), and so maybe this memory doesn’t mean what I thought it did, but it still seems like it should mean something.
The fact is, I no longer remember the event itself–I only remember the memory, if that makes any sense. This is the memory I remember:
My Daddy is carrying me. I have my head over his shoulder. We are at church. I know we are at church and I am not happy about it because I am tired and grumpy. Very grumpy. Some period of time passes–though I’m not sure how much or what happened in the interval. There is some sort of white churchy structure (balcony, though I’m quite certain I didn’t know the word at the time), with an enormous–an absolutely undeniably enormous–head hanging from it. The head has dark, slanted eyes.
This, as far as I can tell, is the experience that memory is about. This is what my mother wrote in my first photo album, which I later read as an older child and thought, Oh! THAT’S what that memory is about! Like I said.
A Korean girls’ choir sang at the church and their members were quite taken with Jennifer.
[I mean–who wouldn’t be?]
In this picture, she was very tired, but she enjoyed them anyway!
I’m sure that last bit’s true, in spite of the grumpiness, partly because I don’t remember feeling grumpy by the time I saw the head with the eyes-just curious–and also because I have a lot of subsequent memories of not wanting to go to church and later being glad I did. As for the giant head itself–well, I’m pretty sure 8-month-olds don’t have the best depth perception. Surely the balcony was off in the distance behind the head of a girl who was holding me, and it only seemed large by virtue of the fact that I had never seen a face like that before.
It’s weird how you can be so small you don’t even know what you look like, and still realise when people look different from everyone with whom you’re normally surrounded. Sometimes, at least in this country, it’s really tough to get to know anyone of a different ethnicity. I’m grateful to my parents for filling my childhood with opportunities to find out about other people, and learn to enjoy the similarities and revel in the differences.
What’s your first memory?