I received this little teddy bear in 2002 from my first grade teacher. I am pretty sure it was because I was moving to Anchorage, Alaska, and it was a parting gift from her. At the time I thought it was so cute, it was so tiny and I loved that its legs could bend so I could display him either standing, leaning against the bookshelf, or sitting down, back resting against a Boxcar Children book. There’s a few things I remember about first grade, I think once we raced turtles or frogs or something like that in the parking lot that was blocked off from the road to be used as a playground during the day. I got my hand slapped with a ruler because I said a boy had a cute baby picture and was making fun of him for it (although I think that was kindergarten). I had my first boyfriend, ironically a boy named Matthew (I’m now married to a Matthew), and he was in second grade, can you believe it? That was also when I snuck my stuffed animal cat into school and had her hiding in my desk, but then Philip who sat behind me snitched and the teacher took her away from me. She said I could have it back Friday. Thursday night I had to go to the emergency room because I had pneumonia. Then my mom had to get my kitty from the teacher and I like to think the teacher felt very bad. I remember laying in the hospital bed throwing up—but that may be because my mom told me I had done it.
That makes me me wonder how many memories I only have because someone told me about them. Does that make them any less valid as memories? I see who I am today reflected in those times, so is it good or bad that I potentially am who I am because of a lie? I guess the heart of it is whether or not memories are objective. Which, they are clearly not. Or maybe the heart of it is whether or not subjective memories are inherently bad. Maybe that makes documentation even more important. If I didn’t have that photograph of myself at the kindergarten recital, would I have even known how excited I had been to perform in front of everyone? Or I may never have known how nice it felt to receive a gift from my teacher, something she didn’t have to do for me.
While I certainly still have earlier memories, this was the first object that I looked at and thought, “Huh, maybe I want to start collecting more of these kinds of things.” From first grade—I’m not quite sure what had gotten into me but there I was, holding the first item I would save forever.