My Screen Memory by
(146 Stories)

Prompted By First Memory

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

There is a clear picture in my mind of me standing in front of my paternal grandparent’s house crying. We were moving to a two-flat on Cortland in Detroit. It wasn’t a huge move. We were literally going a few blocks away. I can still picture myself under the age of three sobbing about my lost doll. And I remember a voice, which my memory ascribes to my teenaged aunt, telling me rather meanly to stop crying and forget about what I had lost. Someone went back into our apartment above my grandparent’s house, most likely originally intended for borders, but emerged empty-handed. The doll was not coming with us to our new home.

My screen memory is actually about my baby brother and my wish that he would disappear.

Here are the facts that my parents shared with me about my life prior to that early memory. I was a surprise baby and, although my father wasn’t excited about the timing, my mother at age twenty-three was more than ready to start a family. When I was born, my parents were living with my mother’s parents. Housing was scarce right after the war, and my Aunt Mickey (my mother’s sister) and Uncle Phil also lived there. Each couple had a bedroom and everyone shared one bathroom and the kitchen. Then they all moved to live with my father’s parents. There were two small apartments on the upper floor of their house on Clements Avenue. My family had a four-room unit with a Murphy bed for my parents, and my aunt and uncle had a three-room unit. According to my mother, we lived there until just after my brother Rick was born. There are photos of me and my baby brother Ricky that were taken in front of the fireplace in that apartment.

I don’t remember my brother being born in April of 1948 except for a vague memory of my father reading to me from a Golden Book, The Pokey Little Puppy. But stay with me here. My screen memory is actually about my baby brother and my wish that he would disappear. He was the doll that was lost in the move. How do I know this? I’m married to an analyst and he made me associate to this early memory when I was writing this story. And suddenly, it all fell into place.

Screen memories are strange things. Freud believed they were distorted, mostly visual, and often inaccurate representations of actual events that had high emotional impact. So, it’s unlikely that my few memories prior to age five actually happened the way I recall them. Because I wouldn’t allow myself to remember the anger I must have felt about my baby brother stealing the considerable attention I had been receiving, I replaced him with the doll. What I really wanted was for him to get lost.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

Visit Author's Website

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wow, good one, Laurie. I like the analysis that went into this. And my brother Rick is just two months older than your brother Rick, but almost 5 years older than me. So I was the little person he raged against and felt displaced by in our early years, but we got over it and are now very close. Thank you for this very interesting tangle of family feelings.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Fascinating story, Laurie. “Screen memories,” as a term, is new to me, but I certainly understand the concept and believe it to be valid. And I remember my older daughter’s reaction when her sister came along; it was not exactly welcoming.

    In your case, the younger brother/doll association falls perfectly in place, and I much enjoyed reading your story as it carefully unfolded, which is as much a mystery as a remembrance (complete with unreliable narrator). Have you ever discussed this with your brother?

  3. Marian says:

    Really interesting take, Laurie. Seems as if the lost doll could have really happened, but the analysis reveals that the meaning you ascribed to it was different and deeper. My first memory is so early I don’t know what to think, so in my story I tried to do my own analysis. Help, I need Fred!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      It does help to have a resident shrink on site, Mare. But in over 50 years of marriage, I never thought much about the truth of my memory or discussed it with him. Of course, it is too late to ask my parents, but I doubt it was anything they paid much attention to in the chaos of moving.

  4. Wow, indeed. How wonderful it must be to be married to an analyst when it comes to interpreting these kinds of meaningful memories and dreams! I would have paid good money for that (as many people have, and do)! By sorting these feelings out, we’re often able to find peace of mind. Sometimes that’s really important, sometimes just a nice feeling. And of course you didn’t really want Rick to get lost…well, maybe you did, but you didn’t know what that really meant. Great story, Laurie…thanks for sharing it, and for coming up with this fascinating prompt!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Actually, Barb, I probably did want hime to get lost. Being the first child and first grandchild on my father’s side, I think I got too much attention. See my comment to Marian. There was another memory associated with his birth that is evidence of my true feelings at the time.

  5. Suzy says:

    Interesting memory, Laurie, and I can’t help feeling that maybe you really were just crying about a lost doll. I tend to be fairly skeptical about dream analysis. But if it rings true to you, that’s all that matters. I was the youngest in my family, and my middle sister once told me, after we were grown, that her life was ruined the year she was five and I was born!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I had always taken the memory literally, but when Fred pushed me to think about it, what emerged rang true. I have never been in analysis and often don’t remember my dreams, but I have to believe our unconscious feelings find ways to emerge. I’m sure my brother’s birth knocked me off my pedestal and, like your sister, I didn’t like it much.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    I love the bright eyes and outfits in the pictures! That doll looks scary though. I might have wanted to lose it for real.

  7. Bravo to your analyst husband for helping you make sense of your memories.

    I must say that in every photo through the years, there’s the same Laurie face!

  8. So: there actually IS a benefit of being partnered with a (dreaded) ANALYST! Mazel Tov to you and to him for digging deep for this great insight. And for the interesting way in which you told us and retold us the narrative–worthy of the spirit of Oliver Sacks.

  9. I had to laugh out loud at your final picture, where you had clearly yanked the little pest off his feet! Here, li’l brother, YOU can be my lost doll. And pictures do have that terrible power to capture a moment, a vertical slice, a digital sample out of the analog flow of the time/space continuum where our hearts beat, our blood flows, our expressions change. Thanks for your honesty and clarity. I had a little brother, too!

  10. Heh heh. 😇 yeah, it’s only through the virtues of childhood self-control that my little brother grew up with a head on his shoulders. 🤷🏽‍♂️

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Girls have a different style but are pretty good at tormenting younger brothers with words and tattling. I see this with my grandkids when there are two boys. Lots of wrestling that leaves me holding my breath.

  11. You certainly displayed style in that final picture of you, looking all angelic into the camera and yanking your little brother of his toddler’s stance. “C’mere, ya little brat. Time fer yer picture.” I just laughed out loud again!

Leave a Reply