Life as I See IT

Lizards, Ants, and the Wall

Stephen Walker


Today’s Bloganuary prompt, “What is the earliest memory you have” makes this an easy assignment. Why? Because I actually already wrote this on my other site, and I am simply reposting it here.

Trauma at any age can stick with you forever. and apparently suppresses many other memories My first memory of life as a child took place at Torrejon AB just outside of Madrid, Spain (I think it is the international airport now). I am pretty sure I was three at the time, but I have no recollection of the timing. I remember being in the yard and the huge rock wall, which was all of 3-4 feet high. On the left was a stone embankment with a steep but gradual incline. On the stones of the embankment, lizards would routinely appear and disappear as lizards do. My mind says they were the size of iguanas, but I am pretty sure they were just gecko-sized.

One of the afternoons, while I was out playing, I found myself completely covered in ants. I remember a woman (I think she was a housekeeper) running out with a straw whisk broom and brushing the ants off me. I am not sure they ever bit me, but since that day, I can smell ants — seriously — not to the level that I can differentiate them, but I know when they are near. I also have an affinity for whisk brooms.

In a house above us — beyond the stone wall was a boy that used to play there. One day he decided to climb a tree in his yard. I cannot tell you how big the tree was, but when he fell, it was tall enough for him to split his head open. I remember a helicopter coming in and taking him to the hospital, which, given this was 1966, seems pretty remarkable. I did find out from my mom that he did survive.

My brother was born during this time, and while I have some vague recollection of his presence, there are no concrete memories of his arrival or life with the new baby.

I have vague memories of spending time with friends, primarily the Richardsons, but I think most of those stem from the photos in an old album. Photos of Valle de los Caídos were always a favorite, and I had a chance to revisit the monument when I was older. I remember attending a bullfight at the Plaza de Toro Las Ventas and used to have some really cool posters.

Valle de los Caídos – Photo by Jose Luis Abia

My last memory of Spain is the flight home at the age of four. I remember the stewardess making an announcement that children could come to look out the window and see the clowns — I remember being so excited — imagine my disappointment when it was just clouds. That flight had a cool memory as well. It was a propeller aircraft, and at night, while flying over the Atlantic, flames could be seen shooting out of the engine.

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