Monday, December 11, 2017

The First Thing I Remember

The First Thing I Remember

I’m a child, young, perhaps three years old, and I see . . . a face. It is a woman’s face. She’s a brunette, pretty, with bright eyes and a kind smile. I’ve just come from being carried to a strange place with bright colors and brighter lights. Lots of red and green. And shiny things. In the strange place, I was put on the lap of a strange man in a soft red suit. He had a big white beard, like my great uncle, but unlike my great uncle, he wore a peculiar red hat trimmed with white fur and with a white pom-pom on the tip of it.

Then there were more bright lights, and the flashes hurt my eyes. I cried, and everyone laughed. I was taken from his lap and carried away.

More about the woman’s face. It’s flat. It’s on a piece of paper, followed by more pieces of paper with dark lines on them. I am sat down on the floor with the face, and some waxy sticks are dropped in front of me. One is put into my hand—my right hand, never my left, as I’d like. I’m encouraged to drag the waxy sticks around the edges of the paper. A large hand closes over mine, guiding it to move the stick. The wax makes a mark on the paper, a mark the color of the woman’s lips.

The woman is Queen Elizabeth II of England. Her face is in a coloring book I was given after my first visit to Santa Claus. What this book had to do with Christmas or Santa remains a mystery to me today. I think it was just an unsold item, one of many that the department store gave to the kids as gifts after their photo sessions with Santa Claus. I had the coloring book for years, tucked away in the piano bench with a few other treasures. But I don’t think I ever colored in it.

She did look a bit like my mother, Queen Elizabeth did: same lips, same coloring (although my mother’s eyes were brown), but then all women of any era look a bit alike, I suppose—it’s the style of the times.

How strange that my very first memory is of the face of Britain’s Queen and not of my mother.

Perhaps this heralded things to come.

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