Dreams and Memories: Our Brains are Fascinating

I want to share a strange experience I had a while back.

First a little back story – my mom was killed in a car accident when I was five years old and my dad was a single parent for most of my childhood. I don’t remember my mom – what she looked like or what her voice sounded like. I have to rely on photos and stories from family and friends.

My earliest memory is of the day she died. I remember getting picked up from daycare and my dad telling my sister and me what happened. Those memories are actually quite clear. My older sister can remember things from when she was a toddler and preschooler so it seems odd that my memories stop there. 

So now my strange experience…

When I was in my twenties I had a recurring dream. I was a little girl in the backseat of the car. It was storming out. All of a sudden the car parks at our neighbor’s house. Someone pulls me out of the backseat and holds me with one arm like a sack of potatoes. This person starts running through our neighbor’s yard and into our yard. I couldn’t see who this person was and I was aware that there were others running.

That’s where the dream ends. 

I had this dream several times and I finally told my dad. To my surprise, he said that really happened. My family had spent a day at the lake in Indiana and we returned home to strong storms. There was a tree that had fallen across the road and that is why we parked our car at the neighbor’s house. Dad said it was raining heavily and that’s why we were running.

Who was carrying me? While this happened long ago and the details are fuzzy, it could be a memory of my mom.

This is proof that I have memories earlier than age five and possibly of my mother.

This wasn’t my only recurring dream about my mom. Another one happened a few years later.

I think this is absolutely fascinating. I am sad that I don’t remember much but it’s a tiny bit encouraging to know the memories are there – somewhere in my brain. These dreams prove I know more than I think I know. 

I would say brains are mysterious but I’m sure there’s an explanation for what I experienced.

Have any of you experienced something like this? How old were you in your earliest memory?


  1. EigenSprocketUK says

    My earliest memory was the moon landing. The fact that I was a only few months old doesn’t seem to make it any less real to me.
    I suppose this false memory was created because every time the moon landing was repeated on TV for the next few years I was probably reminded that I was there.
    When I put this theory to my parents, they claimed they wouldn’t have done that.
    Perhaps memories are made of mostly smoke and a fraction of wonky mirror.

  2. Katydid says

    There’s a theory that the brain remembers practically everything but we can’t retrieve all the memories.

    Earliest memory, I was barely walking and reaching up to hold onto someone’s hand (who it was, is lost in the mists of time) as we crested a hill and looked down at the ocean with brilliantly-white boats speckled all around (Yokohama, Japan, probably 1967). I figure it was either my mother, the housekeeper, or possibly one of the daycare ladies in the daycare. I was probably around a year old. I also remember when my sister was born and my parents forgot me at daycare and I went home with my teacher (1968).

    I have a collection of vague memories that get stronger and more clear by the time I was 4 on Guam and 5 in Florida and 6 in Puerto Rico. I’m not saying I remember everything (far from it!).

    As for dreams, I’ve always remembered at least one dream a night and sometimes several dreams. I’ve heard if you wake someone up mid-dream, they remember the dream, so maybe I just wake up more than my friend who insisted for years that she never dreams.

    I suspect dreams are your brain’s way of trying to file information you pick up during the day. Say…if you had to go to the DMV and sit around in those hard chairs forever and while you were waiting, you might have thought about having to go for a yearly checkup…you might dream you were in a doctor’s office waiting around forever for a yearly checkup.

    Or maybe not. Sometimes my dreams are so non-sensical that I can’t describe them in a way that make sense–like, there will be a feeling you have in a dream and when you try to describe the dream later, it doesn’t make sense because you can’t convey the feeling.

    I’d love to hear what everyone else has to say.

  3. EigenSprocketUK says

    My dreams tend to be very repetitive (when I remember them, usually from waking near the end).
    I think I could be replaying scenario variations of recent events (perhaps to solidify and sort my memories of a confusing situation), or future situations (like an upcoming task or challenge).
    Sometimes, my dreams are utterly bizarre, and defy any attempted analysis of what I might have been thinking about.
    No idea if there was any meaning behind the one where I had to… where the… there was this… no, that one’s too bizarre even to write down under a pseudonym.

  4. says

    My possible earliest memory has me sitting on a blue blanket staring at a typewriter on the floor beside a couch. The surface of one of the keys was broken and that caught my attention for whatever reason. This is the short version; the actual memory is more amorphous and fuzzy–I am sitting on something blue looking at rows of yellowish round things one of which is different, an object that I know was a typewriter because it was in my room for many years and I used to type on it even though it was a weird machine with only three rows of keys (the numbers had their own case)…

    Anyway, in a phone call to my mother before she died I described the scene to her and she said that the typewriter used to sit on the floor by the couch when we lived in Idaho; she used to spread my blue blanket out in front of the couch and let me play on it when I was say six months old or so (we moved when I was eight months old). So–assuming that her identification was correct–that could have been my earliest memory.

    Otherwise my earliest datable memories come from a trip to visit my grandparents in 1953 when I was two years old.

  5. anat says

    I can roughly know when childhood memories are from by knowing where the event took place, as we moved about every 2 years until I was 10. I certainly have some memories from the apartment in which we lived – my self, my parents, and my paternal grandmother, though I’m not sure which one of them is the earliest. One of them is me sitting in a chair with my feet dangling while my mother sings a Hungarian nursery rhyme about lazy dangling feet. Another is about going downstairs with my grandmother so she could hang the laundry to dry on the lines in the yard. My grandmother complaining about everything being covered with feathers (we had a parakeet which we gave away when we moved).There’s a memory of my mother and I waiting outside a door on a winter day – I believe it was the home of the family that got said parakeet. Then there is the scene where my father gives me a tea-spoonful of an orange-colored jam that has the texture of homemade jams. I remembered the flavor of that jam for years. At some point in my early 20s I finally tasted a commercial jam that matched the taste in my memory – it was peach jam. Did anyone in my family ever make peach jam? My maternal grandmother used to make apricot jam every summer, but never peach. I don’t recall anyone else making jams in my childhood. Mystery.

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