I remember the first time I tried to remember my first memory in a psychology class.  We were told to close our eyes, relax, breath deep and search our minds.  What came to mind seemed a little odd and I hardly trusted it to be real.  When called upon by the instructor, I quickly changed my answer to something more plausible than that which popped into my head.  That couldn’t have possibly happened.  But even though the memory was odd, it did happen.  Now, the way I saw this event and the way it happened were two different experiences entirely and perhaps it is a cluster of memories from childhood that my brain fused into one.   However, here is the memory as I see it in my mind.

I was a very young child, just a toddler.  We lived near a lake and spent every nice day near the water.  I loved the feel of the waves coming in and crashing on my ankles.  I would sit in the “beach” area and play.  The adults sat nearby, ladies drinking their cocktails, the men drinking beer, some teens playing near some cars.  This day, they ladies were gathered at the lake, my brother was playing at a distance I think, but as for me, I was wading in the shallow waters of the lake.  I sat down and began to watch some minnows darting about nearby.  I could hear their playful giggles as they wiggle about in the water.  One of the little guys came to the surface to chat with me.  I watched and listened with delight.  The little minnow even knew my name.

“Come play with me,” the minnow giggles.  “Let’s swim all day and you can stay with me. Come play.”

I look back at my mom in the group.  She is laughing and carrying on with the others.  I see very few people right near me.  I look back at the fish.

“Come Anjanette, come play with me.”

I inch myself into the water a little deeper.  It is at my waist.  The water is inviting and cool.  I see more fish in the distance, wiggling and giggling as they play.  My minnow comes back and calls to me again.  He seems so inviting.

“Be free. No more tummy pain.”  The fish is smiling.

I knew the pain he was referring to and was horrified he knew.  It was that sick pain I got when I was being tucked into bed by the babysitters who took such an interest in making me a lady.  A little lady who knows about touch and tenderness.  It made my tummy ache.

I don’t know  at what point I decide to try or how long it took me to join him.  Like I said, it could be a cluster of days all clumped together.  I just know that at some point, I inched my way into waters I was not ready to manage.  At first, I was excited by the water surrounding me.  That quickly changed to panic because I couldn’t swim.  I was 2 or 3 at the time.  No one was close by and I struggled against the water.  Once I let go of the panic, I was free.  I was floating and swimming side by side with my minnow who smiled and laughed with me.  I held on to his side as we swam.  I was free.

“See no more pain.”  We giggled as I swam about with him.

But the good feeling stopped.  I see myself coming out of the water and my little minnow waving good-bye.  He looked so sad and I knew I would never see him again.  That is the first time I heard the crickets.  I would swear it was an army of crickets carrying me away, far from the water.

There is a bit of panic around me and I think someone is hitting me.  They are telling me to spit it out but I am not sure what it could possibly be.  I wanted them to stop pounding on me.  What could I have possibly put in me that is so urgent I spit out. I want to go back and swim.  I want them to leave me be.  Then the pounding stops and I feel a searing pain on my back.  Suddenly, I am coughing up water and began to cry.  Why are they hurting me like this?  Why is everyone standing around me in a fuss?  Where is my giggling fish?

There was  a nice breeze I felt on my face.  The ladies seemed so excitable but I haven’t a clue what they are talking about and why they are making such a fuss.  I want to go back to the lakeside.  Why won’t they leave me alone?

In a distance, I hear the little minnow. “Bye Anjanette.  I can’t play with you no more.  Thanks for coming to see me.”

The sick feeling is back in my tummy.  I see a bunny rabbit hopping in the nearby woods. “Catch me if you can!”  The bunny hops away.  I look around me.  I am too young to have a concept of life and death.  I am not too sure what really just happened.  But that free feeling was lost and I was back in the places that made my tummy turn.  Why doesn’t anyone else hear the voices around me?

Many years later, I heard my parents tell me the story of when I nearly drowned.   I wouldn’t breath or cough up the water I drank in so a lady burnt me with a cigarette.   That is when I coughed up the water and started to breath again.  I don’t know how long I was without air.

When the teacher called on me about my memory, I told her it was of a bunny hopping in the forest.  I didn’t mention my giggling fish or the fact that the bunny spoke to me.  After all, I’m not stupid, just a little different from others.  I couldn’t have my psych instructor see me as a potential patient and not a student.  That would not do at all.