What does an infant absorb and remember? I believe a lot more than we realize, but not in the way it’s easily retrievable. I have come to think that every minute of a baby’s life is imprinted with every word, sound, smell, taste, and even the emotions of his or her surroundings.
I believe infants are super-sponges until talking and interaction with the outer world begins. All this imprinting is filed away, never to be retrieved normally, but nevertheless will guide and form the child to adulthood invisibly and powerfully in both a benign and cruel way. I think from gestation in the womb until around age seven, a child is a repository of so much material, that no one can comprehend the enormity of it.
Returning to the country I was born in, did not cause any anxiety. I was excited and curious like any other trip to a foreign country. I was looking forward to eavesdropping on people who weren’t aware I knew this obscure language.
As the airplane began its descent, I saw the red-tiled village rooftops, the colorful blocks of planted fruits and vegetables, white spots of geese, and patches of beautiful colors. Suddenly, my breath caught and I was overtaken by the most gut-wrenching feeling. I was convulsing in tears, filled with emotion with no idea of its origin. The patchwork of colored red-tiled roofs served as a trigger to break me wide open. But how and why? It was so sudden, so excruciatingly painful, and completely beyond my control. I was convulsing in tears, ugly and snotty. My face was a grimace of pain and hopelessness.
Today, I believe that as a very young infant, I must have looked out of the plane window that took me away from my county of birth, and saw the same things, but added also, the feelings of pain, homesickness, fear, and dread of the future, all the refugee passengers, my family included were feeling. I had carried that container full for thirty years, and a single familiar image, burst it wide open.
So, now that it is, I will crawl inside and retrieve some things from this singular repository, the repository of my mind and soul.