It’s the earliest memory I have. A feeling of being caught inside a dream, of a bright summer day – the heat is real because of the waves coming off the pavement. There are strangely no smells in this memory, and none that bring it back to me.

I am looking up…away…toward something I have lost. I have no feeling, and yet I do. There is discomfort at the heart of this memory, and if I had not had it told to me a hundred times in my youth, I would find this strange. It seems such a bright, happy day.

I am four or five at the time of this memory, according to my mother, who recounts it with a particular flair that only grows with time. “You see that scar on your forehead?” she would say to me, kind of pinching my check and pointing at my forehead in the mirror at the same time. “Know how you got that?” Yes, of course I did. She had told me fifty million times.

I always understood why she was so insistent about seat belts. It was the lack of a seat belt, after all, that caused that scar, all but unnoticeable, the approximate size of the pebbles that always got caught in my sandals when I wore them with wet feet after swimming. The small size of the scar, though, does not do justice for the terror it undoubtedly caused my mother.

Imagine your precocious five-year-old, bounding off with her father to go visit his best friend, and hearing that she flew out of the door. Is she all right? Oh-my-god-where-is-she-where-is-my-baby….I have heard this story enough times from my mother that I find it hard to separate her anxiety from the facts of the fall.

I was leaning against the door, enjoying the breeze from the road, probably laughing and singing along with Dad’s music. In the 1980’s no one wore seat belts. Come on, really, we’re all good drivers. Besides, we’re on a country road here, nothing’s gonna happen – and then, just like that, rounding the curve in that old 1970-something Chevy pickup with the slightly purple tinge, something did happen. The door, which had not properly latched, swung open, oblivious to the tow-headed three-year-old attached to it. Said three-year-old, first surprised (what new entertainment is this?) then uneasy (wait, Daddy’s not laughing…) then FLOOSH-FLING-FLOMP on the ground and looking up at the back end of the truck.

Enter my memory here. Sunshiney day, some discomfort, confusion…

And that’s all she wrote. At this point, everything I know is what I’ve been told. At about age seven or eight I became convinced that my parents had a dramatic restaurant scene about me, because of a dream that seemed strangely memory-like, and then entertained notions of remembering the emergency room scene. These false memories, though, have to be the result of too many sitcoms and a very active imagination. My mother assured me there was no such restaurant scene and that I couldn’t possibly remember the hospital. Or could I?