Autobiography Early Years

First Impressions

First Impressions by Catherine PainWhat I first remember was being pushed along in a pram gazing up at the greenery of the plane trees that line so many of the London roads. My mother told me later, when I began to learn words, that the only time I cried was when the trees disappeared. Since then, all my life, I have always loved them, big ones and small ones, beautiful in all seasons, even in winter when the lacy patterns of the branches stand out starkly against the pale winter skies. This was the beginning of my interest in all things in nature and my love of walking in peace on my own in all kinds of landscapes.

When I was old enough to toddle I walked out of our back door and was astonished to see a tree that lay the length of the garden. I was told that it had been blown down in the night by the wind. I had only seen it upright before, but now I learned how very much bigger they were when seen so close. I clambered into the branches so that I could explore it.

The leaves were a dazzling green. Suddenly I realised that there were many of them moving up and down, whilst the rest of the greenery stayed still. I picked one up. It was warm and furry. I did not know it, but this was was my first sight of a caterpillar. The more I looked the more there were. I still remember how amazed I was that some things I saw were able to move on their own and others could not. I did not know it but I had one of my first lessons from Mother Nature. Things look quite different when they are close and when they are further away.

New knowledge was opening up for me every day. It is some time before newly-borns realise that they are beings in their own right, not part of their mothers. I cannot remember the exact moment when I suddenly felt that I was a separate person with a name of my own and that Mummy and Daddy were also separate people. But in some strange way we belonged to each other and I was aware that they did things for me that I couldn’t do for myself.

Do other babies experience the same thing? I have discovered that most of us remember very little of their early lives. I have come to the conclusion that those of us who do are exceptionally aware not only about what is going on around us but also within ourselves. I believe that those who do are particularly imaginative and sensitive in many different ways. One of the results of these characteristics is that they tend to do things on their own by teaching themselves what they have noticed.

We learn to make the most of ourselves by finding out the kind of people we are. I believe that many of us fail to do the best for ourselves by lacking the confidence to trust our own judgement. I believe my life story, my account of how I reacted to my life’s experience and the benefits I reaped from this, will serve as a good example to young people who have most of their lives before them.