What does a baby or infant absorb and remember? I believe a lot more than we realise, but not where it’s easily retrievable. I have come to think that every minute of a baby’s life is imprinted with every word, sound, smell, emotion, and tastes, of its own experience, it’s family’s experiences, and its surroundings. I believe they are compact little super-sponges, right up until the time language is learned, along with beginning interactions with the outside world. At that juncture, brand new sensory inputs take over. Then, all the family imprinting to this point, is filed away, never to be retrieved normally, but nevertheless, will guide, form and manipulate the child to adulthood invisibly and powerfully in both a benign and cruel way.
Why do I think this way?
Because nothing else would explain circumstances, outcomes, memories and dreams, better than this belief.
After the iron curtain was lifted, and travel was allowed, my parents took me back to Hungary. They wanted to reunite me with my family, and with my birthplace, before too much time had elapsed.
As the airplane neared the ground, I saw the red tiled village rooftops, so many blocks of planted fruits and vegetables, white spots of geese, sunflower fields, paprika fields, so many patches of beautiful colors. A mad quilt of many shades and hues.
Suddenly, my breath caught, my heart seized, I couldn’t breathe, and I began convulsing in tears. This had never happened to me before and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, but it was very sudden, very painful and completely beyond my control.
Returning to America, I began to examine my likes and dislikes, my nightmares and dreams, and a myriad of other things. I’m a quiet introspective type. I love to study and learn, but most of all I want to know “why?”
Today, I believe as a very small child, I must have been lookin out of the plane window that took me away from Hungary. I must have seen the very same things, but in reverse. Adding to that visual memory, was the imprinting of the immense pain, homesickness, and fear of the future, the passengers and my family were feeling, while locked inside that transport, knowing they may never return, and the life they knew was gone forever.
I always thought I was slow and stupid, because I had such difficulty in school. I realize now it was because I didn’t know the language. We were the only Hungarian family in town. My Aunt had settled in Auckland, so it was my job to go to school to learn english, come home and teach my parents. I was forbidden to speak Hungarian at home, to force us all to learn English faster, which we did. It was crucial for my father to speak well, so he could advance from the shipyards, repairing propellers, and his second job carrying flour sacks at the bakery, back to making medical instruments, his chosen profession. Because there were no other families or children to play with, that spoke my language, I had no reason to retain it, and so consequently, set to work acquiring a proper British accent, and the words to go with it.
Decades later, (exactly 28 years) we arrived back to Hungary. I understood almost everything I heard. The sing song cadences, sounded so beautiful and perfectly right, to my ears. I had trouble replying, because by the time I had formulated my answer the conversation had moved on. However, one week later, I began to dream in Hungarian and spoke with more ease, the words coming to me out of nowhere. I was able to keep up with the conversations happening around me. I was teased quite a bit, and set people off into gales of laughter, because my language was dated, I spoke the equivalent of Shakespearean English with none of the current modern slang.
But, the single most profound, and surprising, emotion for me, was the feeling of being completely at home, in a home I haven’t been part of for almost thirty years. A home I’d been away from almost my entire life. I had only lived in Hungary, for approximately one year of my life. My baby/infant life.
So imagine if you will, that a baby remembers every second, of every day, of its first year to two of life. This child remembers every note of music, every word it hears. Recalls with clarity, it’s surroundings, the smells, colors,temperatures, every breeze. Files away every emotion of fear, love or joy, that rippled over it.
Does it make you wonder about where your dreams, desires and fears originate? Maybe they are coming from your first year of life.