First Memory

Looking up at the ceiling. Laying flat on my back. I was in a sort of prison. Rows of wooden bars rose all around me, far beyond my reach even if I could move freely, which I couldn’t. I would have been about a year old I suppose, in a crib, and I had become aware.

Hanging above me was a contraption of sticks, strings, and shapes, what I would later come to know as a mobile. I can’t remember if the shapes were butterflies, airplanes, or something else, but it was blue. It hung motionlessly. Somewhere beyond the walls I heard metallic popping sounds. Air began to rush from a metal vent near the ceiling, and then something amazing happened.

The blue mobile that hung above me began to move. That assemblage of sticks and strings came alive, ever so slightly turning with the invisible air currents now streaming in from the ceiling vent. It was so beautiful. When the furnace turned off, so too did the mobile slow, eventually coming to a standstill.

I lay there in my crib, waiting, wondering, what would happen next. After a time, the same popping and creaking noises began behind the wall, and again the mobile came to life when the air began to flow. I was delighted. I knew how it worked. Perhaps I giggled, I can’t remember for certain, but I do remember what happened next.

The big people were coming. I could hear them talking, and though I did not yet understand the exact meaning of their words, I knew they were talking about me. They said something like, “Is he okay? It’s awfully quiet in there.” They were coming closer.

Their faces appeared above me. They poked and prodded, made funny faces, sounds, and spoke to me in words I could not understand. But most of all they blocked the view. Behind their heads, above them hanging from the ceiling, was the immobile blue mobile. The air from the vent begin to blow, and I did all I could to move their attention from me to the blue miracle above them, but to no avail.

I was so annoyed. I must have cried. They were taken aback that their efforts to entertain me had had the opposite effect. They rose up, and again I could see the mobile. The object of my joy. The big people noticed my attention and demeanor, and they too looked at the blue assembly of sticks and strings. I willed them to partake in its miracle.

But they didn’t.

One of them began to blow on the mobile, turning what would have been a subtle ballet of motion, into a jumbled agitated chaos. The big people were ruining everything. I couldn’t believe it. I screamed for them to stop.

The big people seemed so much more able than I. They came and went as they pleased. They communicated with sounds from their mouths. They exercised total power over me. And yet they couldn’t see what was happening. Instead of sharing in the wonderment of the blue mobile, they were destroying it.

I resolved then and there that I needed to get out of that crib. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know where, but I knew there had to be something more out there. More wonderment, more understanding, more beauty, to find, to behold, and maybe to share. Maybe.

The big people sensed my unease. If nothing else they were attentive. My upset seemed to draw the attention, and as the attention was the cause of them disrupting the object of my joy, I resolved to be un-upset, to remain quiet, as much as possible.

Eventually it worked. The big people returned to the distant room from which they had come. I was relieved. The agitated blue mobile slowed itself, the strings unwinding until it again became still. I waited with great anticipation for the ceiling vent to begin it’s dance anew.

I stared at it with silent glee.

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