A jog down memory lane

I forget where memories come from

What are some of your earliest childhood memories? How far back in your own life can you visit in your mind?

This might not be as easy to answer as you think. After all, how much of our memories are tainted by family stories that we’ve heard through the years?

For example, Mom used to tell the story that when I was just a toddler, I was toddling in the front yard (we had a good fence around the lawn, I was later told, so I wasn’t in danger of meandering out into the road).

As the tale goes, my mother looked out the screen door at me just to make sure that I wasn’t up to anything.

But one thing caught her eye, something that raised a gigantic red flag within her brain and caused her to dart into action in less than a heartbeat. There, just a couple of feet from me, was a small garter snake (back home we also called them “garden” snakes), closing in on Mom’s precious baby boy.

Mom’s immediate reaction was to push the door wide open and throw the only thing she had in her hands at the time — a manually-operated can opener, complete with two long handles to make opening easier (I don’t think electric openers had been invented, yet).

She hurled the opener in the snake’s direction, and with the precision of a surgeon and the power of a Major League home run hitter, pinned the neck of the snake to the ground as one of those handles sliced through the menacing reptile.

To hear mom tell it, it was like the heavens opened up and the hand of The Almighty guided the can opener to its intended target, keeping Mom’s offspring safe from harm. In other words, it was devine intervention at its best.

As I said earlier, I was just a little tyke when this happened. There is no way I could have remembered this episode in my life. Yet through the years, I’ve artificially created a memory of that incident.

I can see the opener hurtling through the air in slow-motion, rotating over and over, until it impales the snake’s upper torso, sending the creature on a one-way trip to meet its maker. But this had to be an invented memory on my part. After all, I don’t remember much else about living in that house.

However, there is another story I heard growing up that I think took place shortly after the snake-in-the-grass incident.

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