Some Small Fragments

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My father met my mother in the course of the Korean War. He was a naval officer (USNA, class of 50), serving on a destroyer out of Japan, and she was a Canadian missionary in Japan. How they got together is a great story that I should tell sometime. I mention it now simply to provide the backdrop for my earliest memories, which are of Japan. One memory I think I have is that of a small hillside, suitable for tricycle-riding, located off to the right as you went out of the house.

But there are two definite memories. The one is of a green army truck driving by the front of our house, going from left to right. It had a canvas back, and was camouflaged in the army manner. The second memory was of an earthquake. We all ran out of the house, and stood on the front lawn, and watched the house (which was white) shaking away. So those are my first definite memories of life on this planet. A vehicle of war and an earthquake. Welcome to earth, kid.

Memory is one of the most fascinating things about the human mind, and how it functions is a true mystery. You make a point of noting someone’s phone number, say, and the next morning in the shower it occurs to you that you need that number. Your brain does something (scrolls, searches, rummages, disk scans, what?) and a second later up pops the number. It is a wonder that we are not creeped out every day by our ability to summon up information from what feels like nowhere. Occasionally you have a memory that has lost all its labels or distinguishing characteristics. Imagine if all the files in your computer had no names or dates, but on reading through the file, it reveals itself as definitely yours. But what is it about?

I mention this in order to throw one other memory in. About a year ago, our small clan was out on the front lawn after dinner and all the grandkids were doing what grandkids do in such settings. They were gamboling, cavorting, charging around, you know the drill. Suddenly, unbidden, a memory of being in just such a position as they were hit me full in the face. I am just guessing, but the nature of the memory was such as to indicate that I was a full-fledged toddler. No idea of what continent it was on, who was present, or what we were supposed to be doing. I do remember that it was sunny and that I was little.

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