[Four pictures. One of baby-me walking behind a calico cat in a redwood forest. One of my dad and baby-me on a yellow porch, him holding me. And two of my dad holding me in a redwood forest. Captions handwritten by my mother read “…and chased her cat called Mouse. There was a big yellow balcony to sit on with daddy and a terrace of redwoods to explore…”]
This is stuff (besides the cat) that I like mostly because of the background, which are various parts of the redwood forest I was born in. I also like that they have my dad in them. He was never distant or freaked out by gender roles, he always loved me and did all kinds of stuff with me. One of his favorite things to do there with me was listen for owls. I remember nothing visually but I remember the owls hooting. He said my eyes always got really big when I heard them.
[Baby-me sitting down reading a book. Around it are gold circles cut into the phases of the moon. Some sort of purple and pink stuff that looks almost like curtains the way it’s cut, and has obvious text showing through the other side of it. And the caption, handwritten by my mother, “Quiet as a butterfly, quiet as a sunset, quiet as a book, quiet as Mandy’s thoughts.”]
Hyperlexia anyone? Geez. Also, more apparent commentary on the “who’s in there?” thing. I remember my mom used to tell stories of all the stuff my brothers did as babies, and I’d ask what I did, and she’d pause for a second and say “You… umm… you were quiet.” Which I found boring and unsatisfying at the time. I also remember being thinking about nothing in particular and my mom then randomly saying the word “thoughtful” to someone about me, before I knew what the word meant. That happened a lot. (If I had known what it meant, it would confuse me, because it usually happened when I was spacing out or staring at stuff without the slightest thought in my head. It’s weird all the textures words have before you know what they mean.)
I also remember being older than that and having this huge pile of books that I’d take to my crib (I was in a crib up to the age of four or so, I think — they changed it so I could climb in and out myself), and later to bed, with me. Which hasn’t changed. Not even a little. I’ve got a huge amount of them hanging off the side of my bed in a blanket where I can reach them if I want them but they don’t actually touch the bed itself.
[Two pictures. Infant-me sitting playing with a stick and a paper bag, with a calico cat crouching next to me. Wearing some sort of pink fuzzy clothing. Infant-me walking behind the same calico cat over the floor of a redwood forest. Wearing a blue dress and matching blue bonnet.]
This was Mouse. The cat my parents made no effort to find when we moved and she ran away, even though they told me exactly where they thought she was running to. I think she was one of two cats who slept with me in my crib, and by her postures here she seemed like she may have been fairly protective of me as an infant, something about it reminds me of me and Fey. Which is kind of funny because her two litters of cat kittens didn’t fare so well in terms of her maternal instincts, she’d leave them places and we’d have to go get them and bring them to her.
These pictures were the other reason I scanned the entire album/scrapbook thing. (I scanned the whole thing in case I saw stuff I wanted later.)
[Me as an infant in a blue dress and bonnet, standing in front of a stool on the floor of a redwood forest.]
I actually scanned most of these pictures for the backgrounds rather than the foregrounds. This one is a good example. I’m standing on a forest floor covered with redwood needles, and that is cool. I have very strong memories of the forest floor, some visual-ish, some not. (My very earliest visual memories are of textured things like forest floors, not “foreground” objects.)
I also like it because it shows one of my earliest stims, the finger wiggle.
I think this says a little too much.
So I was scanning a photo album/scrapbook type thing my mom made for me when I was little.
As far as I know there are only three, out of lots, of pictures of me under the age of two, where I appear to be both smiling and looking at the camera. Only two where you can actually see my eyes.
All three of them made it into the book. Many better photos didn’t.
(Note that I don’t think looking at the camera == eye contact. But most people looking at pictures confuse the two. So I can see why a nonautistic parent looking for nonautistic social cues would have approved of those three pictures so much. It just sort of bothers me because it marks the beginning of a lifetime of selective editing by other people to see what they want to see. They’re not bad pictures, but they represent something uncomfortable. And I can’t help but think that at least one of them was likely engineered in some way.)
Title: Grandma's Song (Album Version)
Artist: Gail Davies
Holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit.
But I was right in what I was thinking. Which is that the keys to my earliest memories are never going to be visual.
My parents found the album of the song I posted the query about on here. I had sent them the few lyrics I knew, and played the melody on the violin and sent them that too. My dad was really shaken up that I could have remembered it, because apparently they last listened to it when I was really young. As in, a baby.
And I listened to the song.
But then I listened to the next one (I’d heard it vaguely over the phone with my parents but not well), and that’s where the shaking and crying started because this one is etched in some part of my brain I haven’t seen in at least thirty years. I’ve always had a really good memory for music. And this isn’t the first time that I’ve hit on a song at random and found an album and had goosebumps when I heard the other songs. But this is the first one this intense.
Basically any time that I have a memory that seems “ultra-familiar”, it’s from a time period before I have just about any visual memory, and turns out to be from before we moved to the city. And every time I finally track down an “ultra-familiar” song, the other songs on the album are so intensely familiar it’s hard to sit and listen through it. I don’t know what the hell causes this reaction but it’s as intense as the familiarity with a temporal lobe seizure, only there’s clearly no seizures going on and nothing bad happens. Clearly I have a much better memory for music than I realize. It’s also always really eerie every time I hear something for the first time since having gained the ability to comprehend words.
A note about “regressive” autism
(Full disclosure: That’s what I’d be classified as. I lost speech sometime between 15 and 18 months old and took awhile to get it back. But was also obviously different from long before this happened.)
There’s this interesting fact I’ve heard from people who make it their business to read all the autism science they can, and evaluate it critically.
See… autistic people who lose language in early childhood (that’s those of us who really did this, not those whose parents misremember it after exposure to antivax propaganda)… there’s a pattern to our language loss.
We do it after learning a certain number of words. Nobody has told me specifically how many.
But here’s the interesting part.
People with Down syndrome almost always have speech delays whether they’re autistic or not. People with Down syndrome also have a high rate of autism.
When people with Down syndrome “regress”, they do it later. They do it when they have learned that certain number of words. So the average age of speech loss in people with DS is older than in people who are just autistic.
Totally demolishes the idea that it’s some kind of poisoning that does this.
I wish I knew the cites for this stuff but I don’t remember. I just thought people might want to know this information for the next time someone tries to convince you we are all poisoned or vaccine injured or other BS. That’s all coincidence, a matter of timing.
And honestly I suspect those of us who “regressed” are those who burned out after learning more of something (in this case speech) than our brains are able to handle and sustain. Which is the story of my life even past infancy — lots of shutdowns and burnouts, both short term and long term. And speech and language are always among the first things to go. I also suspect that many of us are the sort of autistic people whose skills move and fluctuate and slide around to accommodate the situation. But I have no science for any of that.
This is the last photo from that forest for awhile, I promise. :-)
Anyway, this is a picture of what my dad used to do at night. He’d take me out on the porch to listen to the owls in the redwood forest we lived in when I was little. And believe it or not, I can remember it. Not the way most people remember things, but as pure sensory experience and the ‘feel’ of the place. And I can go back whenever I want and feel it all over again. This is where my most deep and meaningful memories come from.
…and I swear neither my basic facial features nor my default facial expression have changed at all since then.