At some point in my past, I traded my memory in for an expanded vocabulary. While that’s a pretty fair trade, I have trouble remembering a lot of things about my past. For instance, my younger brothers can rattle off their homeroom teachers from grade school and middle school while I have to consult a yearbook from 1998.
This lack of memories continues back further than that: most people can remember very minor details about their preschool days, but I have only one distinct memory from my early childhood.
I remember a fire.
I’m young, young enough that I can’t walk on my own. My parents haven’t had either of my younger brothers yet, so we’re all living together in their first house. My mom and I are in the living room doing typical mom-baby stuff (probably me goobering like an idiot), when all of a sudden the smoke detectors start beeping all along the first floor. The situation escalates and my mom picks me up as my dad runs downstairs and helps the both of us out of the door. I can remember the smoke, I can remember the heat, and I can remember the worry on my parents’ faces.
This is a pretty vivid memory, and even now, some 20 years after it happened, I can still recall how the carpet looked in the living room.
This memory is false.
I first recalled this memory sometime during my childhood and was met with confused stares from my parents. They explained that there was never a fire in their first house, especially not in the 17 months that we lived there after I was born.
In addition, they’ve taken us back to the old house, a one-story ranch-style home about a mile from our current house. There are no stairs my father could have run down in a panic, desperate to get his wife and child out of the smoke and heat.
So what is happening here? I’ve asked myself multiple times where this memory came from and why it sticks out, even with my limited memory of my childhood. My mom thinks it’s tied to a past life where my soul inhabited another body that was involved in some sort of fire. For a long time I thought it was a vivid dream that somehow inserted itself into my subconscious (a la this dream I wrote about not too long ago). But this doesn’t really make sense, because in that case I’ve always known it to be a dream, something that couldn’t have happened in real life.
Maybe this is evidence of the unification of two separate universal timelines: one in which our house burned and one in which it didn’t. That sounds a little far fetched, but then again look at how many people had a fit over the spelling of the Berenstain Bears?
Either way, this incident is still the most vivid memory I have from the first 10 years of my life, more than my childhood pets and my time in grade school.
Memory is weird.