The first thing I remember as a rug rat was a train ride from California to Missouri. At age 4, a nap feels like an eternity, a walk to the mailbox seems endless. So this train ride, through the desert, mountains and plains, through night and day, storms and sun, stop and go, stuck squarely in my 4-year-old craw.
By day three, I knew how to tell time, write my name in cursive, compute the square root of 3 and wipe my own butt.
Great-Great Grandma Varty was the one who taught me those things. She sat across the table from me in that creaky passenger car that was, as near as I can remember, the California Zephyr. We had to change trains somewhere in Nebraska or Iowa to finish the trip to Kansas City, but I remember the view out the window. It was spectacular. She kept me hydrated with Cokes and her purse was always stocked with chewing gum. I did not lead the life a dentist would have wanted, especially on that trip.
What I learned from that experience was how big the world was. I had been on an airplane, but they tend to make the world feel small. If you want to really see the world in all its glory, take a train.
I don't remember why I was taking a train to Kansas City with Gramma Varty, but I have a suspicion it was to go stay with my grandparents, who ended up helping me through half or more of my first 20 years.
This is Chapter One of the life of Dave. It gets more interesting - after all, this is my earliest memory. My other early, foggy synapse connection is falling in the yard and cutting my pinky finger wide open on a rose bush, but I'll spare you. There was blood, okay?
I'm drifting off as I type, so I might have to embellish from here. Take a breather, top off your drink and settle in.