Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Fickle Mistress



I was thinking about memory.

How reliable is it anyway?

I think of members of a family with a different viewpoint on significant events.

"Do you remember?" I say to her, "Do you remember when the baby was put in a drawer out in the back field near the boards that were put out for a dance floor, and someone, I think it was the English uncle, started playing the accordion and then someone joined him on the harmonica, we used to call them mouth organs then. I hated him teaching me to play it because he smoked and there were bits of tobacco stuck in the holes and the smell was awful."

"No, I don't remember that part," you say. "I remember the apples on the trees by the fence and Billy pushed me up a few stones that he put against them and I shook the branch and the apples fell down."

"Right," I say, "Well I don't remember that part, but boy, you got in trouble because you tore your dress and our grandmother got very upset."

"Why?" you say.

"Because she wanted us to look so good for the wedding. Auntie Rita's wedding to Uncle Pete."

"No," you say, "I don't remember a wedding at all. I remember my pale green dress that flounced and the apples. Was that at a wedding then?"

"Of course."

I am getting impatient now. "Why do you think we were all dressed up?"

"So what were you wearing then if you're so smart?"

"I can't remember."



16 comments:

  1. "Memories are made of......well, something very flimsy...obviously!"

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  2. I remember having a discussion with my siblings about memories from our childhood. One of them said that if we each wrote about our lives back then, that they would all be different stories and hardly recognisable as the same family.

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  3. Ha ha yes flimsy stuff indeed! I was discussing that very issue with a 6-year-old just yesterday, he has already encountered that problem with his own family. Very philosphical that one, made him wonder what life was really about when his memories don't match up with anyone else's...

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  4. Memories are the source of the narrative and dialogue of our lives, and we are on stage for the entire play as the chief actor.
    We select the details of the past that make sense of each act, and the supporting players help us on our way.

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  5. Recently I had occasion to suggest to my sister that the next time all four siblings get together, we talk about some of the issues that keep cropping up in our group emails. She promptly wrote that no matter what the subject, we almost always end up discussing only one subject. THE subject that has consumed the four of us our whole lives. What a contrast to something like this taking place!

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  6. Oh the memories. I've had talks with my brothers and it is like we were at different events LOL. My own memories of my early years are hit and miss. Bits but not quite all of it. Dozens of years ago, I started writing things down both on a timeline and in a journal. It helps jog the old brain. It is all our own perspective anyway.

    A few years ago my son asked me to write a sort of memoir and I agreed. Quickly discovered it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. A work in progress. What I do remember is interesting and how I felt at the time is often all I can remember.

    Very interesting subject ...

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  7. Funny, I've been thinking about memory recently, and what occurs to me is that we still know next to nothing about how our memory works and how to restore it if it starts to fail. If we lose our memory, that's it, nothing to be done, which is profoundly tragic.

    My mother and I have totally different memories of all sorts of things. You wouldn't think we had been at the same events. Memories seem to subtly change over the years until quite often they turn into a totally false memory.

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  8. I don't have anything similar to the incidents you describe, probably because I've nobody left with whom to discuss my past.....But I do recognise the "syndrome" in another way.

    On a few occasions, after watching a movie on tape or DVD, a movie I'd seen before, long ago, I've mis-remembered the ending. One in particular springs to mind at the moment - "Witness" - I argued with Himself long and loudly that I must have seen a different version when I first saw the film.
    :-)

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  9. RJA:
    The older I get the more astonished I am at its unreliability.
    XO
    WWW

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  10. GM:
    Absolutely. And pluck from them what only we enjoyed or felt brave about, like my cousin and me.
    Xo
    WWW

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  11. Annie:
    A couple of weeks ago I had a similar conversation with a 10 year old. Oh the wisdome of the young!
    XO
    WWW

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  12. Oh Ramana:
    If this is not breaching too much privacy you should write about it!
    XO
    WWW

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  13. Carol:
    Me too. I'm writing a memoir of my mother and realize that I am the only one she spoke to of all her memories of the Black and Tans, etc.

    I thought my eldest brother might have been privy to this memory bank as well as unfortunately he was not.

    I feel very sad about this but compelled to write her story down.

    XO
    WWW

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  14. Nick:
    And I think the more often we talk about them the more changes are made to incorporate others' thoughts and recollections. Fickle indeed is our memory.
    XO
    WWW

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  15. T:
    Lonely for you, and lonely for all of us elders with no one to share with.

    I had to laugh when you mentioned movies. I still want to change the endings of some I have seen over twenty times. :)

    And Witness, I've forgotten the ending to that too.

    XO
    WWW

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