My earliest memory is falling out of the police car when the cop opened the door. I had fallen asleep leaning on the door, and it being 1951, there were no seat belts. I remember being carried into the house and put in my crib so I could go back to sleep. The part I don’t really remember is what happened to get me in the police car. That part was part of family lore, so I remember the story but not actually the experience itself. My brother (4) and I followed a cat until we lost track of it. He realized we were near the railroad tracks, so he suggested we look for cinders and spikes. We didn’t find any, but the police found us and informed us that we were lost. To which my brother replied, “We’re not lost; I know where we are.” As I was falling out of one side of the patrol car, the cop was telling our mother that my brother was going to grow up to be trouble.

All I can add is that “where we were” was the Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska, the biggest freight classification yard in the world.


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im not sure even a memeoir can contain the dante-tinged kalaiodescopic marvel of your thought-process marinated as it is in wide-ranging and tolerant reading habits, self-aware composting of over-exposed pop culture and its requisite cynicism (the dis-illusioned idealist hmmmmm veeee are on to sumthing...) but fuck all that the soviet butter crap will linger far longer than i wanted

bonus memeior from this quarter:

i loved jewellery as a kid especially my mom's engagement rings...she loved sunning herself without rings or much else on a patio of stained old brown boards set on top of a fairly high rough stoned semi-circular castle- like turret where below was a large granite escarpment fronting some very gnarly thicket of briars...all magic for a 6 year old especially the tiny bright red almost fuschia? ants which i ground with finger into the cement capping the wall like making paint.......one day tired of that i picked a ring off her towel or begged it from her and spirited it down to that granite like gollum and fuck no one knew about gollum back in like 1876 and forced it onto a big digit where it wouldnt budge...soon her voice came floating down ever rising in urgency and then murderous RAGE: "you dont bring that fucking ring back up here THIS SECOND and i will BEAT YOU to within an INCH of your life!!" That got my attention and i started pulling frantically on that finger. My mom was subject to over dramatised out bursts but as a socialist she didnt give a damn about the value of ring it was all about CONTROL, part of a life long power struggle to come (and yeah acknowledged with humor always, lucky for us both) That screaming got my attention and the ring came flying off my finger into the briars and these thorns were each like a trident this was new england they dont fuck around and i plunged in there like i had once after a baseball and found it miraculously and heaved it over the cement capping which took a good throw where i heard it rolling around up there accompanied by a mixture of frustration and giggling thru which i detected the words "Why you little BASTARD!!

No one has this shit figured out, relax.

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1. My older cousins would tease me about falling from a wagon and lading on horse manure. I had no recollection of this so I asked my mom about it and she was very short and skimped on details. She basically said: It happened. You were one year old. You were sitting on the wagon, it moved, you lost your balance and fell. You fell on dirt but didn't get hurt, you were just scared.

I don't trust any story from my childhood unless I can see a VHS tape of it happening. And you may think I'm a caring father because of the number of pictures I take of my children but it's really just documentation in case they turn against me one day. Daddy keeps receipts.

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2. I have always been a better writer than talker, so when I would get mad I would write my parents angry letters and leave it on their bed for them to find. Supposedly they still have them, I don't want to see them.

But that's not even the best idiosyncrasy in my family. My SISTER would make her feelings known. But she was a subtle killer. One time she was mad but rather than express herself she hatched a clever scheme. She cut two skull-and-crossbones out of paper and left them on my parents pillows without telling them. Then she went about her day. When my parents went to sleep at night they found the little paper curse she had left for them.

Great essay, thank you for this! Even though I never got my head stuck in metal bars, I could very much relate.

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Do we all hav the same lives? Same story. Parents similarly aged. Except I got my leg stuck. I was told - if you can get it in, you can get it out.

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I’m skipping the numbers, Alex, and just saying that I love this. Reminds me of the best of Pushkin and Bulgakov while being 100% you. Did your grandparents pinch your cheek? I feel compelled to do so, except you’re 3000 miles away and you’d wonder why this old guy you don’t know is pinching your cheek. Anyway, keep up the good work.

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Sashka Suralmashka! It's been a while I didn't hear that. Haha! Even as a kid you already wanted to entertain others and make them laugh and gasp. Kudos! I'm glad you're okay. And I'm sorry your parents have been overbearing, but it's also understandable. At the same age, I don't have a I-got-stuck-in-this story, but I did almost die from swallowing a jumbo shashlik piece. Fortunately my mom saved me, but since then, I've been sheltered quite too much.

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I RELATE TO ALL OF THIS #immigrantlife my fav is when my aunties in Iran sped in reverse on the HIGHWAY hahahahahhahaha no.

My first memory was of me drinking water diluted with sugar cubes because I guess it tasted good or my mom thought it was some herbal Persian remedy I have no idea

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The bottom rungs of a chair. Playing hide and seek. My parents were exasperated but also laughed at me because I'm the baby.

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“an overly sensitive only child who acts out in low level dangerous ways to make sure everyone around him KNOWS that he is FEELING THINGS”

This is a great post Alex. I love the honesty about the how your conflicting identity made you feel- starting with shame and leading to embracing... it’s pretty amazing when you get old enough to be grateful but also to recognize and call out and laugh at some of the stuff. I think this piece would really resonate with students. In my Nat Lit class, we have lots of conversations about what it feels like when your identity is mixed. Thank you!

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Oh wow, once again tears first thing in the morning. Beautiful piece, but it really did lead me to a click of recognition. My self-narrative is that because my mother suffered from rheumatic heart disease and was often ill, (having her first of 3 open heart surgeries when I was 8) and because she was such a stoic, and I as a snotty pre-teen would then feel terrible about my failure to do some chore when I realized she was in pain, i became a super sensitive person constantly making sure everyone was ok, and trying to make every ok, living in fear that if I didn't do this I would inadvertently hurt someone. Exhausting! What your piece and question did for me was push the beginning of this narrative much earlier than when I normally start it - at I when my mother disappeared for a month for her first surgery. Because today I realized my first memory is the time (pre 5) when my mother was trying to rinse the soap out of my hair (washing it in the sink) and evidently I was giving her such a hard time that she dragged me down into the back yard and hosed me down. Embarrassing because the neighbors saw, but mostly shocked, because my mother was a gentle soul (few times she paddled my rear we would then sit together and taste our mutual tears, wondering at their saltiness) so that this was a level of anger I'd never experienced from her. Today, looking back, I now remember that I need to include this in my narrative, because my reaction to the event was not just embarrassment but shame that my behavior had caused her to lose control. That by the age of 8 when I really understood how bad her health was (and that she could die at anytime--but that is another story)-- I understood in some way how hard it was for my mother, in her ill health and frail body, to wash a struggling 4 year old, and that probably the rage was part fear, how was she going to be a good mother, etc. if she couldn't even wash her child's hair? Needless to say this also became part of who I was, someone who was a really, really good girl, who never wanted her actions to ever hurt someone in the slightest way, even inadvertently. So, thanks for prompting;ting the insight, keep the humor and the sadness coming.

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Thanks for sharing. I'm already at the stage 3: laughter. Your story brought up lots of childhood memories for me, especially of my little brother. Keep 'em coming... the stories, that is.

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I love this.

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dear alex,

glad you got stuck and unstuck!

thanks as always for sharing!

i love a good origin story!

now for your questions:

What’s your first memory and how have you pathologized it?

the first memory i have is being a tiny baby and eating a banana but accidentally biting into the peel and then crying a lot, which i think is funny now because i am a comedian and as everyone knows, bananas = comedy. i don't know if i've "pathologized" it, per se, because i was a baby and i think it's reasonable for a baby to cry when things are unpleasant. i mean, i think it's reasonable for an ADULT to cry when things are unpleasant.

Are you like me and have the need to let everyone KNOW you are FEELING THINGS? Please tell me everything about this so I can feel less bad, thank you in advance.

i hear you, friend! and i'm with you. and i LOVE telling people that i am feeling things. like right now. i love it. i am feeling love. and gratitude. for you.

What things did you get stuck in as a child or as an adult? Tell me your stuck stories.

when i was a few years old, i was playing in the corner of my room which was like a pit at the intersection of my bed and my dresser, and it was full of stuffed animals so it was really nice to be there, and then it was bedtime and my grandmother said it was time to get out of there, and i said i couldn't because i was stuck and then she pulled me out and because i was resisting my arm got dislocated and we had to go to the ER. i'm okay now though! or maybe THIS is my comedy origin story. i do what i want! and then respond to reality eventually. fewer bananas in this story, though it IS a pretty bananas story.

I am still doing this bit with the numbers I don’t even care

i still feel love for you!



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Great story! I really liked reading that. You should cut your parents some slack for not letting you eat McDonalds food. Did you know their fries never rot? You can find them under a car seat 20 years later and they are hard as a rock, but not rotten. You're better off, although, their Happy Meal toys were WAY better back then.

One of my first memories was when I was 5ish years old and I got a peanut M&M stuck in my nose at a family function. No idea why I put it there. Sounds easy enough to remove, right? Plug the other nostril and blow, right? Well, this stubborn 5ish year old would not do that. She just cried and cried while my mom, who is also a 1st Responder, and one of my favorite uncles tried to get it out. Eventually I was laid out across the kitchen counter of our mobile home. Uncle and others had been recruited to hold me down and try to distract me while my mom and my grandfather, another 1st Responder and EMT, used every tool they had to get that peanut M&M. They had to cut it in half and remove it in pieces. No dramatic ending, but I am still reminded of that story from time to time by others that were at that event. I'm not really sure how to pathologize it though.

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You look adorable as a two year old, but also like trouble. Probably your Nona recognized that you were a bit bratty. But adorable! I love your parents. My first memory might be when my dad gave me a plastic bouquet of flowers when I turned 2 years old and I really felt like a 'lady'. I always enjoy your belly button examinations. All that love surrounding you made you funny, and lovable too!

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