It’s that bunny time of year! Every time I step outside I disturb a young rabbit feasting on my plants.
I’m going to take you back to 1959 today. (Yikes, how did today get so far away from then?) I have a certain quantity of very clear memories from the age of just before two to age four. This event happened in the spring, about three or four months before I turned four.
What I am searching for today is why this is one of those important early memories. According to Sven Birkerts, we have memories which are involuntary. Memoirists, he argues, “need to investigate why a particular memory of a seemingly meaningless moment has such power that it still calls to us through decades.” I wrote about this theory when I first started this blog in a post called “Breaking the Codes of Childhood.”
My parents took me on a trip far from our Michigan home–to New Orleans. On the last day, we went on a boat ride along the Mississippi River. In the restaurant, the ship’s captain introduced himself to me, then hoisted me up and tousled my hair. He placed his captain’s cap on my head. The hat fit me perfectly.
Maybe it was not really his hat, but one he meant to give me all along, like a souvenir. He and his men fussed over me, and I thought I knew what it felt like to be a princess.
Mom and I went for a walk on the deck. Somehow my thin summer coat sailed over the side of the ship into the giant net that encircled the craft. Sailors tried to fish out the jacket, but they couldn’t reach it.
“Lulu, you need to learn to be more careful,” Mom said.
I hung my head. “Peter Rabbit.”
“Peter Rabbit lost his jacket.”
Mom said, “Yes, you lost your jacket just like Peter Rabbit. He’s a naughty rabbit.”
I stood at the guard rail and stared at my little blue jacket, so recently wrapped around me, lying forlorn in the netting, so close and yet unreachable.
Why do I remember this memory so often? Any ideas?
* At home I had a 45 (record) with a narration of Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” so I was very familiar with the story.