My earliest memory is a series of discrete images. A slideshow rather than a scene. The gaps in the pictures obscure what was happening in the memory, leaving me with a collection of words devoid of verbs. There are, however, plenty of nouns and adjectives.
The memory begins with a small, aluminum, semispherical bowl. It was the bowl my grandmother used to feed me with, though if I were being good she would let me attempt it myself — a chopstick in each hand, determined to manipulate the food into my mouth but usually failing. There was something green in the bowl, probably some sort of Chinese vegetable given how much I love vegetables now.
I was in the cramped dining room of my grandparents’ old apartment in Sanming, a dusty industrial place. The bottom of the walls were painted an ugly shade of turquoise, the top half a discolored white. Across one side of the room were big windows that faced the apartment complex’s courtyard. Small potted plants sat on the windowsill. I forget what they looked like.
A soft, yellow light diffused about the room, softening edges and blurring lines, as if turning down the sharpness on a TV. I can’t be sure whether this was how it actually looked, or if my memory has literally faded over time like an old photograph. As I envision the room now, it seems more and more to resemble a sepia print. The memory, the mental image, seems to age as I invoke it. Or perhaps the memory grows clearer, revealing the agedness of the room itself.