Memory tends to separate image and affect. One of my earliest memories is going through the hospital doors to see my newly arrived baby sister. But it is little more than an image, coloured and retouched, no doubt, by its repetitions in memory, encrusted with remembrance.
What about how the world appears to a three year old, the categories which frame and divide the world of appearances: big things vs small things; Mummy-Daddy vs Other People? And what does ‘hospital’ or 'birth' mean to a three year old... someone who does not yet know where babies come from, for whom babies must be something like a miracle, the hospital itself, a vast white cold space. These escape recollection, because of how the recollecting self has evolved.
Imagination can try and arrive there, using the usual labours of approximation. But the actual three year old’s world cannot consciously be retrieved. But perhaps it is still lodged within, awaiting a jolt from outside, or a revelation from inside, from dreams.
What dreams drill down into is not memory, which as we ordinarily speak of it is organised by the present. Rather they drill down through and into the layers of our antecedents, our antecedent selves. Fragments of past selves, past perceptions, past affects, lodged in strata, cut off from our present ‘I’, but released when it sleeps.