Earliest memories not always fond ones

By Diana Breit Wolfe | March 31, 2023

I have a story from my early childhood that keeps creeping back to me, and I re-live it in my mind from time to time. It’s about my grandma dying while she was babysitting me. But more about that later. Out of curiosity, I started asking others about their earliest childhood memories. Most of what I heard were a bit traumatic like these:

My niece, Donna, was about 3 years old on a summer day in 1955. She was standing with her mother at the front storm door of their home when it closed quickly. Her little sister had her hand close to the hinge and it cut off the end of one of her tiny fingers. It’s a painful memory of a tragic accident that still haunts my niece.

The author playing as a 3-yearold in her grandmother’s yard.

My brother-in-law, Dick, said he didn’t know who she was or why he was looking at her when his dad lifted him up in his arms so he could see inside a casket. He saw an elderly lady but didn’t know why she was lying there.  All he knew was that it left a clear image in his 3-year-old mind back in 1951. Years later he found out it was his step-grandma Mae.   

On a cold night in March 1948, my sister was gone on a date and my parents and brother went to a movie (or “picture show” as we called it back then). I was with my Grandma Breit who was sitting in her chair next to our large upright radio where she always listened to soap operas. She could understand English but only spoke German. I was 4 years old and could understand her German but couldn’t speak it, and we always managed to communicate. I went to bed but woke up later and went into the living room where Grandma was slumped over in her chair. She was in a strange position with her head tilted back and I ran my finger across her wrinkled neck just because it looked strange to me. I didn’t know why she was sitting like that, so I laid down on the nearby couch, slept and waited. There was a snowstorm the day family members drove to Pfeifer, Kansas, for her funeral.

If you can recall your earliest memory as a child, it might be a traumatic one like these, but I want to end this story on a happy note. My former husband, Bob, now deceased, remembered World War II ending when he was 3 years old. He lived with his mom in an upstairs apartment house that use to be on the northeast corner of Maple and Seneca. He heard lots of noise and people outside the open window from his crib. Suddenly his mom lifted him up and swung him around singing “Your daddy’s coming home! Your daddy’s coming home!” I can only imagine the happiness she was experiencing at that moment.

Speaking of happiness, those of us at The Active Age are quite happy with you, Dear Readers, for continuing to respond to our requests for your help. Last year it cost over $22,000 a month to print and mail your free newspapers, and your response to help was magnificent. Please continue helping so that we can all stay happy.

Diana Breit Wolf is treasurer of  The Active Age board. Contact Diana at dcwolfe2000@yahoo.com.