One of my earliest memories...

Let’s drift back in time, again.

If one of your earliest memories links to the theme of your memoir, it’s a great place to start; it’s pretty much the memoir equivalent of ‘once upon a time’. Here, Questlove remembers the first time he encountered the instrument that he would become famous for—the drums.

Notice how he extends the narrative to slowly pull the focus to his memory. 

One of my earliest memories of drums came a little later than that, on Christmas Eve 1973. It’s probably my earliest memory in general, and it’s blurry around the edges, but I remember the center of it: waking up in bed that night and going downstairs to find a toy drum kit, a xylophone, a keyboard, and a toy guitar by the tree.

If the last snippet was like a dissolve transition in a movie, this snippet is a super slow dissolve—we anchor on a date, then seem to swim in a fog for a couple of clauses before we land on a vivid image. All this helps us to feel like we’re travelling with Questlove way back to his earliest memory.

The fact that he remembers such a memory makes it significant and emotional, too!

Here are some examples. 

My earliest memory of cooking was when we had a family get together for my Nana’s 70th birthday. I was three. All the family had gathered, and my memories of that day are mainly a fog of arms and legs and faces, but one moment stands out: Aunty Patrice sitting me beside her and allowing me to help her prepare bruschetta, ravioli and yummy cream-filled cannoli.

My earliest memories are of my Dad on his weekly visit home. So much of my childhood was a blur, but that was always solid. It may be because it was as regular as clockwork, or because I looked forward to it so much, but the memory is so clear: Dad erupting from his semi trailer on Saturday morning in a cloud of red dust, bear-hugging Mum and I until we couldn’t breathe, ruffling my hair, and saying “There’s my girls”, while smiling from ear-to-ear.

By the way, all of the examples will continue the ‘famous cook’ and ‘truck driving dad’ narratives. You can choose to do the same with your writing, if you wish! You can pick a memory or a story and write it in different ways, or talk about a new memory each time. It’s up to you.

Write a passage that starts with ‘My earliest memory’. Travel through the blurry bits and focus on one vivid part.