“That island reminds me of the little island in Cape Cod.” That is my four year-old R. speaking, peering through the car window. I can’t think of any similar island we have seen in previous visits to Cape Cod. I am not even sure that the natural landmark R. is referring to in his remembrance is an island at all.
Yet my interpretation is irrelevant. Relevant is the fact that already at his early age R. is making comparisons based on previous experience, reasoning through analogies, similarities, reducing the world to known schemes and familiar patterns. Relevant –and awe-inspiring for a father—is the realization that R. is at the start of a momentous process: the establishing of his own life story, of his personal narrative. For memory is identity: what we remember, we are. Better: what we say to ourselves we remember, makes us who we are.
R.’s narrative, I have to say, is still shaky. “Do I like chicken soup?” he asks his mother a week later. Of course R. loves chicken soup. He loves soup in general. And he has had homemade chicken soup many times… How can he not remember? But here we are: through memory, at age four R. is setting the first stones of his inner temple, the temple of self-identity—the masonry for his life narrative at this point being unpolished pebbles such as soup, travels to Cape Cod, or a small island in the middle of a lake.