My earliest memories I am just beginning to remember again- but they are of such a wildly different life I wouldn't be surprised if they were actually dreams. I remember my father- or rather, I remember the memory of my father, really. I can't recall his image, but a general impression that I would probably be able to identify from a line-up of average-looking fellows. He had a beard, and he smiled through it quite often; that's about all I can tell you with absolute certainty. I don't remember the color of his eyes, or the exact shape of his face, or even what kind of nose he had, though we've all assumed it looked something like Ariel's.
I distinctly remember going to the beach- probably because I can't recall a time after his death where I visited a public beach, much less wore a swimming costume. But here's the thing- I can't feel the cold water, the sand between my toes, or he warm sun on my back. I can't hear the other children. I can't picture my father in a swim costume, or my mother with a taught, round belly- but I remember that we went, I remember that we played, I remember that my mother was pregnant with Ariel at the time. I might as well have read about myself as a boy, because these memories are mostly factual things. But occasionally, there is something that hits me, like the smell of worn leather, or a note of laughter, and then I feel an alien sensation, as if someone else's experience has been injected into me. I suppose this is when I really remember. It's hard, and I'm not sure if I like it.
After our grandmother died, Ariel passed on to me a box of photos given to her by her guardians, Harold and Emma, who are our Uncle and Aunt, respectively. They are perhaps the only physical documentation I have besides my own existence that my father was a person. They are terribly strange to look at, though. As I stated earlier, I am not unfamiliar with the man in the pictures. I can point him out- that man, there, between his sister and his brother and a few of his cousins- that man is my father. But seeing him physically is to find discrepancies between the lines- differences that aren't so much there in image, but in the fact that these are real and complete pictures, but the image in my head is actually anything but. It is as if she's actually given me a box of pictures of an acquaintance I met once at a party- an acquaintance, perhaps, that said something especially profound to me, or stopped me from tripping down a particularly steep and dangerous flight of stairs- an acquaintance that changed me and then walked away. I know this man, but I don't really know this man. As I said before- if it weren't for these pictures, I would have no proof that my father was anything but a character I imagined to fill the role I so sorely lacked growing up.
And there you have the first seven years of my life, despite the knowledge that the really only common denominator between it and the rest of my life is that I allegedly lived it. My more vivid memories begin once my father is out of the picture, if only because it's much easier to remember things if they don't involve a person you've been told to forget.