I remember dearly my great grandparents. In fact, my great grandfather outlived my own grandfather, who died of Leukemia at the young age of 63. I bring this up because we were having a conversation the other day about our earliest memories—things we remember from being a kid. I have some distinct early memories as a child growing up in New Jersey before we moved to Maryland when I was five years old.
Several of my early memories involve my mom’s parents’ house on Myrtle Avenue in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. They lived in a Cape Cod style house—an adorable little thing with a back yard full of gardens, a bocce court, grape vines, and way in the back of the yard, train tracks that ran through Cedar Grove. There was a swing my grandfather (Poppy) put up for me in the back left corner of the yard. I remember swinging on the swing. I also remember that my grandparents were going to have a party one afternoon, and my mother made me take a nap at their house before people came over. I had a piece of gum in my mouth, and I slept in one of the two bedrooms upstairs. I did fall asleep, and when I woke up, the gum was mush in my mouth. I ran to the bathroom and stood on the toilet to peek outside the window. The party was beginning, and I remember not wanting to miss it.
Perhaps that’s why I have a love of parties and entertaining.
I also remember wanting to wear my aunt’s high heels. I went upstairs on another occasion and tried on her shoes. As a small kid, I didn’t realize those high heels would make it difficult to walk down the stairs of my grandparents’ house. I fell down the stairs—tumbled all the way down and gave my mother a pretty awful fright.
I’m blaming my aunt for my love of high heels.
Another distinct memory I have as a child is going visit my great grandparents; their home was not too far from my grandparents’ house. Nana and Old Pop had a cukoo clock in their house that did, in fact, cukoo. I loved that thing. I remember being mesmerized by it. I also remember the smell of Nana’s house—it smelled like a combination of old house, basement, and pizza dough. I can still picture Nana in the kitchen tossing pizzas in the air. I remember it distinctly.
I’m pretty obsessed with clocks, used to have my own cukoo clock given to my by my dad’s parents, until it no longer worked, and I make my own homemade pizza now.
I also remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. We were living in an apartment in Cedar Grove…I was four at the time…and we had a black and white television set. My mother woke me up very early so that I could see history take place that morning. I remember sitting on the green rug watching it unfold.
And finally, I remember riding my bike and playing on the driveway of my grandparents’ house with the neighbor’s kid Michael. We would play together when I would go over there. He was my first friend who was a boy.
When my grandmother died and I attended her viewing, those very neighbors showed up to pay their respects. Michael wasn’t there, but the parents were. I remember being so touched that they came, seeing as how my grandmother hadn’t lived in that house for many, many years when she passed.
And perhaps meeting them again was all it took to inspire me to write a story about two kids who grow up next to each other and fall in love in my first novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree.
These are my earliest memories from childhood. What are your earliest memories from being a kid?
Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice