When I was a very young child, long before uninterrupted consecutive memory, an event happened that, as I grow older and farther removed from, seems to lose credibility even in my own mind. My grandfather and mother have passed on, my father now has no memory beyond a few fleeting minutes and my brother who was there has no memory of the event at all, making it hard to corroborate. Still …..
I am sure that it must have happened – but if it did indeed happen, am I remembering the event, or the stories told after the fact. I know the exact spot on the 320 acre farm where the incident took place and I have a crystal clear image in my mind’s eye; the bright sparkling fall afternoon air, the plow shears slicing the sod, the dry yellow stubble crunching and crackling as it turns under the moist black earth, and the warm oily smell of the droning tractor engine. This I remember……..
My grandfather driving the tractor and my older brother and I crouched behind on the steel tractor deck hanging on to the rusted fenders. At the end of the half-mile field, the plow lifted out of the ground as we approached the headland, my grandfather yelled at my brother to open the throttle. He eagerly obeyed and the tractor leapt foreword, my small hand slipped from the fender and I tumbled off the back, directly under the path of the plow. I remember the dry stubble stabbing into my back and the shiny steel shear above me, scraping down my right arm peeling a layer of skin, a thousand small red blood spots springing up as the plow rolled over me.
I remember nothing else of the incident whatsoever; the severity of the wound, neither my state of mind, nor that of my parents when my grandfather returned to the house with an injured child, nothing. The wound must have been minor, I have no scar to show for such a potentially dangerous incident but it surely has had some psychic resonance as it is such a vivid memory and is probably the second longest memory that I hold. As I was so young when this happened I assume I was told of the event and now cannot be sure if I remember the event itself or a recounting of the event, Has it become an auto-narrative structure I have built over the intervening years, part of my own creation myth? Perhaps like history, memory itself is in reality a construction depending on the power of narrative to bring it from the virtual to the real.