My earliest memory deals with dirty undies.
At best I can remember.
I’ve been noticing something about early childhood memories. You get some very clear stuff sometimes from back “before the age in which memories are actually registered in the developing brain”. Sometimes very clear stuff. But when you pick at them, some people will tell you that they’ve satisfied themselves they weren’t real memories, but things they’d been told and bought into, or even little hallucinations. Memories are tricky stuff. Try being in a roomful of sexual abuse survivors trying to sort out fact from nightmare and it’s pretty clear. Memories persist like ants running around in a clock. This is the sort of thing you start thinking about when you start writing memoirs.
This whole page might be one of those ominous omens. Or “foreshadowing”. Or “visual image of the plot-driving quest” or something.
But what the heck, it’s my memory and it’s not exactly a previous life as Queen of Troy or being buggered by the PTA over a goathead altar: it’s having my diapers changed. Some people get golden soft-focus memories, I get the shitty end of the diaper. Such is life.
My cherished childhood memory was having my diapies changed by my brother Powell. Laying on my back with my ankles in my ears, staring up at some stupefied male staring between my legs and trying to figure out what to do about it.
Like I said, dire foreshadowing.
I can picture his face now, and what it was saying to nobody in particular, unless you count the baby girl swaddled in musty old sheets on a swaybacked old cot in the bedroom they always called “the porch” for some reason, all flushed and burbling on one end and smeared with vile goo at the other. Which was clearly, “W The F???” I had an older sister, and later some younger ones, but I think Pow was just starting to come to grips with what the French honor as “le différence“. God knows what depths of wonder, insecurity, and peculiarity the site of my tiny genitals (or lack thereof) inspired in him. Probably about the same as when I first saw a little boy’s equipment, except he wasn’t giggling.
Less distant memory of childhood is also involved with used diapers. My Auntie Belva, in whose sprawling, decadent, musty, lunatic home I spent periodic episodes of my childhood, was Old School. Any given new or old, she came down on the Old Side. She’s probably the only Baptist python in the world who would have opposed the Protestant Reformation, just on the grounds that what was good enough for her old kneeler pappy was landsakes good enough for everybody in the present and future universe. She thought disposable diapers were a foolish fad, and just too tacky. A body just can’t be too careful about what they strap on their ass to catch the fall out.
So she used old cloth diapers for the droves of little tow-heads that drifted through her strict and damaging care. God knows where she bought them. They looked like left-over bandages from the civil war prison over in Andersonville. Nobody would have a second’s doubt about which side of the Civil War Auntie Belva would have come down on. She still sees the US government as treacherous, meddling carpet-baggers and Obama’s presidency as where these things lead if you don’t keep an eye on them.
The trouble with non-disposable diapers is, you can’t get rid of ’em. You have to clean the suckers. And when I say “you have to”, I think you know who I really mean. So I’d be standing over her cracked yellowing old potty with the chain to flush it from with water from the cut-down Bardahl barrel bolted to the roof of the rickety “Ladies” room slapped on behind the “grocery” part of their abandoned-looking old filling station. Sluice each diaper in the water until either the water turns some ugly color or you get ill. Then flush it and toss the wet “clean” diaper into a bucket to take out and run through the wringers of the robot-looking tub washing machine of the “side porch” where it was mostly supported by dogs and ‘coons hiding underneath. Then snatch another smeary old rag out of the upside-down breadbox she kept beside the collapsing sideboard she called a “bassinet”, and start over. I was never too keen on Auntie Belva, but after sluicing processed strained peaches our of a couple of dozen diapers, I generally felt like putting her craggy old dragon head through the wringer a few times, She was too tight to buy disposable diapers and we all had to make up the price. Highly typical. I was always wishing she would join the rest of us in the current century, or spread the black wings of her old “widder’s shawl” and flap off to Middle Earth.
But I have to say, a few trips to what people used to call the Third World before it got PC promoted, I changed my tune a bit. One thing you could say about Auntie Belva, she was “Green”. It would have been better if she’d had us scrape those dingy diapers out on a compost heap or something, but at least we weren’t consuming fossil resources and cramming them into the land fill.
I’ve seen parking lots with little wads of disposable diapers drifted up like snowbanks. Little decaying bits of petrolution like babyshit croissants. And lovely bays in the Caribbean, where you walk up the stream to the first waterfall or dam, and it’s holding back a huge raft of little ca-ca buns. Apparently, there are these big Sargasso seas in the middle of oceans, comprised largely of floating crapburgers. It’s not just gross, it’s perverse. We wonder about the Egyptians going to all that trouble to preserve dead bodies, but our civilization is leaving behind tons upon tons of carefully wrapped and hermetically treasured feces.