It's kids and family week here at OnMilwaukee.com and, more than ever, we'll feature articles and blogs about children's health, education, travel, fun and more. Kids and family week is brought to you by Aurora Health Care.
Some people can recollect events that happened decades ago, others can’t remember what they ate for breakfast. In any case, memories are an interesting aspect of being human and, if you don't think about them too often or for too long, they can add an emotional richness to your life.
In honor of kids and family week, the OnMilwaukee.com editors decided to reach back in their brains and dig up an early childhood memory or two.
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One Christmas in my early years, my sisters and I awoke to two of our uncles asleep in the middle of our family room floor. Of course, bear hugs and kisses and snuggles ensued. They had driven through the night from Texas – to be with our family on the holiday morning. My uncles are in some of my earliest memories, and in so many throughout my life. While some of the fun memories now jumble together and we have to clarify when and where so and such happened, that first memory of such an occasion has never been forgotten. I can only hope to give my niece and nephew such memories. Such big shoes to fill!
Growing up in the town of Beaver Dam, there wasn't much to do. Outside of a rundown bowling alley, a four-screen movie theater and a couple of parks, there wasn't much for my sister and I to do for fun when we were younger. Luckily, my family and I lived a mere 30 minutes from Madison, my second hometown. We would often hop on Highway 151 to make our arrival at a '90s metropolis known as DZ: Discovery Zone on the city's East Side. While we visited the often creepy Chuck E. Cheese from time to time to willingly eat (very) below average pizza and spend an uncounted amount of my parents money on tokens just to buy cheap plastic toys and sour gummy candy, DZ was where the real adventure was. To me at the time, the play arena inside was seemingly endless and intimidating. When you walk in, you have to give up your shoes and I, for some reason, always had an irrational fear that another child would steal my shoes, which had an embarrassing color palate of green, blue and purple (reminder: this was the '90s).
DZ had it all, or at least what a young boy would possibly want for a day of fun with arcade games and laser tag (back then I shot aliens with the encouragement of the "Men in Black"). It took me a couple of visits to gain enough courage (truth: my sister eventually dragged me in) to the giant play arena where we would crawl through a maze of giant plastic tubes, a giant ball pit, more tubes, more tubes after that, a small bridge that always seemed a bit unsafe to say the least, and more tubes. This would lead to the infamous "bumpy slide." It was actually termed a roller slide, but my sister and I would often refer it as bumpy because it was, well, a bumpy ride. We, along with my dad wearing knee pads, would tirelessly travel through the maze in the play arena dozens of times just to roll down the bumpy slide. It was a continuous adventure that was a lot of fun. It's too bad the company went bankrupt in 1999.
I had just turned 8, in 1988, and I recall my dad making me cry because the Chicago Bears beat my beloved Philadelphia Eagles in the famous "Fog Bowl" at Soldier Field in the playoffs that December. Why was I rooting for the Eagles? I don't know. And he was probably just picking on me, as you do in sports when your team wins, but who does that? (I'm writing this with a smile on my face – love my pops, of course!) And, as I got older, I've exacted my revenge 10-fold with trash talk on the golf course.
I think my very earliest memory took place when I was about 2 1/2 years old on Cramer Street, where I lived with my parents for a couple of years. I was taking a walk with my mom and I saw a tree stump. I decided to sit down on it and take a rest, but when I stood up, I was "stuck" to the covered-in-thick-sap stump. I finally peeled myself from it, touched my butt and realized there was now sap all over my dress. In true toddler form, I started to cry. My mother, smirking, took my non-sticky hand and, I think, we walked home for fresh clothing.
I can't say for sure what my absolute earliest memory is, though I certainly have fond, early memories of awaiting my grandmother's nightly return on the subway from her job at an Italian bakery in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. She lived in a small apartment upstairs from ours and after she had a break to eat and change, I'd go up and talk to her and get a Hershey's Kiss out of the bowl on her living room table. I can vividly recall sitting on the floor as she sat in her chair as we chatted. I loved having my grandmother living with us and when I moved to Milwaukee later, I'm happy to have lived in the same house with my maternal grandparents for a number of years, too.
I can't promise you that this is my very first childhood memory, but it's certainly close. I was 3 years old, living on Bay Ridge in Whitefish Bay. My mom fed me spaghetti and noodles for dinner. After dinner, I went about my evening as toddlers do. When she put me to bed, I said, "Here, mom," and spit a fully-formed meatball into her hand. Apparently, I had pouched that meatball, unknown to her, in my cheek for hours. My mom laughed then – and she laughs now – about "the meatball."