This is so huge for me, I can’t even believe that it is real.
So here is the story.
I’m pretty sure that my earliest childhood memory is of being with my mom and dad in a place with big dinosaurs. No, they weren’t bones. They were big, huge, “real” dinosaurs. It was outdoors. It was sunny. There was dirt, or dust or some such thing on the ground. And the dinosaurs were SO BIG!
I asked my parents about the memory several times during adulthood, and both suggested museums. Or fantasy. But I knew that wasn’t right.
When my dad died, and my mom and I were packing up the home that they had shared together, somehow we came across IT. THE PICTURE. The picture of me, in my father’s arms, and the dinosaur in the background. In the picture, I was about 3 years old. My mom looked at the picture, puzzled. She did not remember it. We traveled a lot. It was clearly somewhere we had been. Somewhere that made a huge impression on me. She suggested some Midwestern stop. The world’s largest pencil, the world’s largest cornstack. A few dinosaur statues on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Certainly it was not a destination. Just somewhere we must have been on way to somewhere else. We later found yet another dinosaur picture. This time of my mom holding me in front of a stegosaurus. But it was the huge tyrannosaurs, and a brontosaurus that does not appear in the photos, that are permanently imprinted in my memory.
I’ve thought a lot about this memory over the years. About traveling. About how much I enjoyed the adventures I had with my parents. I’ve thought about it even more in the past year or so. I am now the mother of a three year old. She is a good traveler, who has already started to build up a set of experiences that will be the base for future travels. I’ve wondered if she will remember anything of these recent trips, of if they will all fade into nothingness.
So on the winter solstice I was pulling out old pictures. I pulled THE picture out again. There I was. A little girl my daughter’s age, being held in my dad’s arms, a huge tyrannosaurus rex right behind us. I dug deep into my mind. I am certain that this is my very oldest memory. I mourned the fact that I would never know where we were, my parents and the dinosaurs and I. But I celebrated the fact that I had the photo to confirm my memory. And I ran images of recent trips over and over again in my mind, trying to divine which images Liana might carry into adulthood.
A few days later, ironically on Christmas Eve, we went to the Hall of Science with some friends. Afterwards, we stopped in the shop where I hoped to buy one last minute present.
And then I saw it.
It was THE picture. No, I was not in it. But it was the same picture. From almost exactly the same angle. On the cover of a book on the 1964-65 World’s Fair.
In Flushing Meadow Park.
Hundreds of miles from my toddlerhood home, but only about 2 miles from my current home. My daughter’s toddlerhood home. Jackson Heights.
Flushing Meadow Park! Where Liana and I spend sunny weekend days riding the carousel and walking through the Queens Zoo and eating ice cream outside by the big fountain. Where Liana and I spend rainy/cold weekend days, running wild in the Hall of Science. Where Liana and I certainly spend 2-3 days a month.
My earliest toddlerhood memory, as if it were a surreal premonition, is of a special place where Liana and I have spent much of her toddlerhood together.
And as Liana grows up, she and I will walk together, literally and metaphorically, in the footprints of long-gone dinosaurs.