The Octopus

I often wonder what my parents did or thought when they were kids. I think about it a lot. I wonder where they lived and what memories they were fond of, or what significant events occurred in their early lives before they were parents. I don’t know how much longer I will be around and available to answer any of my own kid’s questions. It’s possible they won’t think to ask or want to know until they’re much older. And, I don’t really know what tangible digital information might survive me or what won’t get lost. I figure I’ll just post some early memories from my life for the record, in case they’re ever curious. What prompted this? I was reading a post about whiteboards that get erased and the information is “lost” to the growing entropy of the universe. If I’m a whiteboard, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a picture before I’m erased.

There’s not more than maybe a hand full of early memories that stick out. I actually don’t even remember how old I was at various points in my life until about the time I got my motorcycle driver’s licensee in Tennessee at the age of 16. Most of the really early memories I have, say prior to the age of 6–7, are ones I’m most fond of that seem to mostly involve my Father. Most of the bad memories, of the very few I can remember, involve my Mother. I draw no special significance to this other than to contrast it with later teenage years and I did not have an occasion to see as much of my Dad.

The very first thing I can remember is a reoccurring dream. Among the falling or flying type dreams, which seem common among, what stands out most for me is a reoccurring dream of a very abstract nature. I can recall nothing relating to reality, no real objects or sounds. All I remember is a strange sense of what I can only describe as dimensions being stretched and squished into a line. As if a large plane with elongated rivers and valleys was being squished down with portions of the higher areas being pancaked over the lower areas, causing folds which became more and more flat, while also being stretched length wise. There was also no real sense of time. Motion was very chaotic, with accelerating changes occurring from an extremely slow rate of change to a very fast rate in an erratic way with no real pattern. At times this was both disturbing and comforting. I have not had this dream for a long time and it is possible my own memory of it’s re-occurrence is flawed. For some reason, something about it has always suck out in my memory. I can remember both waking from this specific dream being scared, and other times I was wanting to return to it, which is puzzling.

As I try to remember my very first memory, that I understood to be real, I find it is very hard for me because I had no concept of age as a frame of reference until I was much older. Because I’ve nearly went to a different school each year of my life, cannot recall any of my teachers, friends, or schools until high school. And of the teachers that stand out from high school, I cannot remember their names or faces. I remember having a really cool high school physics teacher and a really bitchy math teacher, but not much else. The only people I remember are my parents, my grandparents on my Father’s side, my great-grandmother, my uncle and aunt and some of my cousins.

There are two memories that stand out as the earliest. One is horrible, and the other is one I seem to cherish because I was living on the beach in California. I don’t really know which came first, but due to the nature of the memories, I can take a pretty good guess which is first. This is just a guess since neither of my parents have ever really talked to me about my childhood in any real detail.

The horrible memory is one of the first things I can remember and the only memory I have where I know my Father and Mother were together, as in a relationship. It would also be the last. It was in an apartment complex, I assume it was in California, but I really don’t know where or what city. I remember having a couple friends at an apartment complex at one point, but I don’t remember their names and I’m unsure if they were even at this same location or are from a different period in my early childhood. All I really remember is one specific night where my parents where fighting & yelling. I can’t remember what it was about or what they were saying. At one point, my Mother went outside and my Father followed her.

I don’t remember how I know this. Did they leave the apartment so that I couldn’t hear them fighting? Or were they fighting before leaving the apartment? I only remember the outside. The only thing that makes sense is that I was worried about them, or just being alone and I must have walked outside on my own. From this point, I remember her driving away in a white Volkswagen bus. What most stands out for me is that my Father was by the driver’s window as she drive off. I don’t know if he was forcibly trying to stop her, or just talking to her and asking her not to go. I don’t remember what happened before this or after. I don’t remember talking to either of my parents or them talking to me before or after this. The most clear memory of this event is the unique sound of the Volkswagen engine as it drove off down the street. Every time I hear that characteristic sound, this memory is what I think of.

The good memory which is among the first things I can remember involves my Father and the west coast of California. I remember living in a super tiny camper both at various beaches and in my grand-parent’s backyard in Santa Ana. I think he also had a Volkswagen bus. I sort of half remember going to school, perhaps for the first time, but I’m not entirely sure of this. The only location that stands out is a campground in what I’m sure was Santa Barbara. I remember there being train tracks because I remember walking along them. And there was this cool ice cream & candy shack in the middle of the campground where I would go, probably via big-wheel. I don’t remember if I ever purchased anything from this store, but I remember it well. And honestly, I don’t even remember seeing either of my parents. Yet I do somehow feel sure to say that I was living with just my Father. It’s quite possible that I was left alone for rather long portions of time.

The best part about this specific early memory is one day seeing a fisherman carrying a white bucket near the tide-pools. I’m not sure if it was my Dad or some random dude. It must have been low tide. The bucket was filled nearly to the top with salt water. In the water I could see a colorful octopus attempting to get out of the bucket. I remember being fascinated with this even though I didn’t know what it was. It’s possible I was told what it was at the time, but I don’t remember. I don’t remember specifically talking to the fisherman, other then just seeing the octopus, the bucket, and it’s tentacles as they reached out of the water in an obvious attempt to regain it’s freedom.

Octopuses are highly intelligent, likely more so than any other order of invertebrates. The exact extent of their intelligence and learning capability is much debated among biologists, but maze and problem-solving experiments have shown evidence of a memory system that can store both short- and long-term memory. It is not known precisely what contribution learning makes to adult octopus behavior. Young octopuses learn almost no behaviors from their parents, with whom they have very little contact.