It seems a silly question. But how many people really know where they first lived after birth? I thought I knew, but was wrong.
My House of First Remembering
My first memories are of a small Craftsman-style cottage on the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio. I remember only a few things:
- Dark built-in book shelves inside,
- Mom’s hyper-colorful dresses (which made me think she was a gypsy),
- And a small fish pool in the front yard.
The pool is my clearest memory. I reportedly spent many happy, unattended hours sitting in the grass, staring into its water. And dad staked chicken wire over the pool to keep me from joining the fishes.
An Unusual Birth Certificate
I always thought my parents lived there when I was born. But this changed when– shortly before her death– mom sent me a thick envelope of interesting personal records. Among them was my rather unusual birth certificate. Unlike the “official” notarized and stamped paper certs I’ve seen, it’s a data dump from (perhaps) the hospital’s thermal printer. Perhaps what they did in Columbus back in 1948.
The document may also hold more information than most modern certs. Among its more than 40 data fields, I found these interesting facts:
- Mom lived in Columbus for 13 years before I was born.
- She entered the hospital 5.5 hours before delivering me.
- And my parents did not live on the Scioto River at the time.
An Unremembered First Home
The above photo shows the (now reddish) two-apartment building where mom and dad really lived when I was born. Based on the building’s street numbers (which I cloned out of the image), I think they rented the upper floor. And they probably entered using the stairs on the building’s left side– the stairs up which they carried me into my first earthly home.
But this image isn’t from an old family album. I thought it’d be a hoot to point Google Street View at the address on the certificate, and found it immediately. Even walked virtually around the neighborhood… for very ol’ times’ sake!
(The building’s appearance also makes me think it hasn’t changed much over the past 75 years.)
- As it turns out, many people may not know where they first lived. According to recent studies, our earliest memories begin to “take” when we’re around 2.5 years old. Anything before that is usually retained only briefly or not at all (though with repeated questioning, earlier memories may be retrieved).
- After I found this image, my wife checked the 1950 U.S. Census. It revealed that my younger brother Byron was also born here, just before we moved across town to a larger house on Sharon Avenue.
- A previous 35mmc article described how old family photos helped to solve a mystery of my past. But this new article shows how old documents– plus modern imaging resources– can do the same.
–Dave Powell is a Westford, Mass., writer and avid amateur photographer.
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