I ate an apple outside yesterday, and it brought back one of my earliest memories.
I don't know if it's this way for everyone, but once you start delving back into the early years of my childhood, "earliest memory" becomes a distinction that's hard to grant with any degree of accuracy. Once you go back a certain point, memories get confused with photographs, dreams, and the stories other people tell you. But this memory is clear enough.
It's winter, I'm in Saskatchewan, and I'm sitting in a snow bank. Across from me, in the neighbor's driveway, there's a furious game of street hockey going on, and it's been going on for a while. I have been watching--I've been allowed to watch---nearby, and I contemplate the events solemnly, periodically taking a small bite out of my apple. I couldn't tell you how old I was. I was old enough that my teeth were in, thus making apple consumption a possibility. But I was young enough that I wasn't allowed to play with the older boys, not in a game of street hockey, anyway. I think that puts me somewhere between 4 and 8, which gives me an admittedly large margin of error.
It's almost as if we were deliberately trying for a cliched Canadian tableau: rural Saskatchewan,piles of snow everywhere, a half dozen or so boys zooming around nets, and another younger one, bundled up in a comical manner, watching them. Clearly, we were trying to reconstruct a scene from the Hockey Sweater. I can't even remember who any of the other boys were; it can be safely assumed that at least one was a grandson of our neighbors, but beyond that, it could have been any of a number of suitably aged town kids.
What I do remember, though, is the apple. I was wearing mitts and I ate it slowly and fumblingly, in part because it's really hard to eat an apple while wearing mitts, and in part because I knew if the apple was gone, I'd have to make a move--I'd have to go inside to throw it out, or get a new one, or something, and I'd miss some of the game. I remember feeling very strongly that if I didn't have an apple with me, my presence would, for some reason, become suspect. Such are the logical certainties of a child in the 4 to 8 age bracket. You'd think the apple would be incredibly cold in such conditions, and in fact I do remember actually dropping it in the snow more than once. But while I was reluctant to go inside, I'm certain that I did, maybe more than once, just to put the apple quickly into the microwave to heat it up a bit. And so the time passed, me gnawing on my warmed up apple core, watching some kids play hockey.
And that's it. That's the memory, in its entirety. I'm not going to say it's a life-changing moment, or that it had a profound effect on my feelings towards hockey, fruit, or winter general. But whenever I eat an apple outside in the winter months--granted, not something that happens often--this is what I remember. And in some small way, I feel a little better, just for the connection to my younger self.
Memory's funny, isn't it?