Nostalgia-Inducing Writing Exercise

I was doing a writing exercise not long ago, about exploring your natural gifts through early childhood memories. The exercise asked that you go as far back as you can remember, when you had no fears and nothing was expected of you except to play all day. Then you use the common or dominant things to examine your adult life and help you see your natural gifts.

Admittedly, trying to conjure up memories of such early times is difficult. I remember playing quietly on the floor of the living room of our trailer. We had things like Lincoln logs, wooden blocks, Barbie dolls, and little metal matchbox cars. Some of them had doors that would open and close. I remember coloring with crayons and using them to make rubbings on paper of the patterns on the kitchen floor linoleum. I liked the smell of the crayons. Still do. I have vague recollections of playing outside with other neighborhood kids, though I see no faces, it was too long ago. We used to go to the end of the trailer park looking for frogs near a field I think, and sit in the big puddles after the rain. The water was warm and felt good.  I remember roller skates that were adjustable with a skate key and you buckled them onto your shoes. I was never very good but liked to go around and around on the patio.

One morning I was up early, before the chill was out of the air and you could see clouds of gnats hanging in the air. There was no one up and about in the trailer park but me so I walked around a bit and ended up on the patio of the empty lot next door. As the the sun got a little higher all sorts of spiders began crawling up onto the edges of the patio to get warm. I was just little and scared of spiders, so I let out a mighty scream at the top of my lungs. I’m pretty sure I woke the whole neighborhood and must have gotten scolded. I don’t recall who came running, perhaps the neighbor boy Brian. I stood there in terrified tears telling whoever it was why I screeched.

I got a big Raggedy Ann doll for my birthday one year. She was almost as tall as me. I was pretty excited at first when I opened the box thinking that I was seeing the end of a sleeping bag. Then pulled it out and discovered it was a dolly. I still have the photo of me hugging her with a big grin on my face.  I still have dolly, though I don’t know what happened to her clothes. She wears a dress that I used to wear as a baby. Mum made it for me. And dolly lives in my bedroom now, a constant reminder of earlier times.  

I can’t conjure up memories of things earlier than this. Even though the instructions asked for memories of before “peers or fears”, I don’t recall a time when there was no meanness from my sister. It was just part of life. Thinking about this I wonder if I should be feeling ‘robbed’ of a ‘normal & happy’ childhood. But I don’t feel that way. It certainly colored my entire life and reactions to everything in life, but I think I’m a good person– well adjusted, generally content, always striving to better myself and my environment. Anyway, it can’t be changed and I feel nothing when I think about it. It’s odd sometimes to think about things and have absolutely no feelings, like a hollow void where nothing exists. Do you ever feel that way?

Looking back over the memories, I mostly remember being perfectly content to sit and play by myself. I never felt the need to have anyone else around me and don’t recall looking for anyone out of boredom.  I didn’t worry about being good at anything, I just did it because it was fun and made me happy. When do we lose that? I recognize that from an early age I’ve had a peacefulness within myself. Is this what draws others to me and compels them to feel safe and secure opening up to me? When they do I feel patient and kind and caring and wish there was some way I could help. So is my gift then peace and empathy? Being a counselor is one of the jobs that is supposed to fit my rare personality type. I wish I had known that many years ago, when I could have gone to school for it and earned a very nice living helping others.

What are your earliest memories? Do they help you see what your natural gifts are? Can you remember when you began to lose your childhood happy-go-lucky mindset? Was it something specific? Leave a comment. I would love to hear your experiences.

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