Perhaps I should have called this post : Memories May be Beautiful and Yet Totally Inaccurate . Sound remotely familiar? Sure does to me.
My contributor copies of Country Roads: Memoirs From Rural Canada arrived late last week. You know the book, the one edited by the lovely and talented Pam Chamberlain with the funky chicken on the front. Before writing, The Place I Call Home —that’s my piece in the anthology— I’d never written a memoir piece. In fact, I’d never considered there was anything about my life worth writing about, certainly nothing that anyone else would ever want to read. That’s why I write fiction. But it was kind of fun to see the piece come together and even more exciting to see my words printed in the book. Thanks, Pam! You’ve been super to work with, not to mention very patient.
People who have only known me as an adult will learn a bit about my growing up years here in East Dalhousie when they read the book. It’ll all be news for most of them. But the truth is most of it will be news to the people who have known me my whole life, too.
I got to thinking about the human mind and our ability to remember events from the past. We’re all told to live in the moment and that’s good advice, but without our memories, those small random remembrances of our past, who are we really?
When my older sister read my piece in Country Roads she was surprised to learn that I was one of three girls who had made a mile long swim to an island in the lake we frequented as kids. It really shouldn’t have been such a shock since she was also one of the three. Talk about a memory malfunction! Okay, just so you know, she remembered making the swim. She just didn’t remember me being in on it. Sheesh! Thanks sis! Didn’t ya remember me being there, singing my head off, when we reached the further shore?
The headline in the local paper read, “Long Swim No Big Feat For Three Girls.”
My point is, had my older sister been writing this same piece, she’d have written an account with a headline that would have read, “Long Swim No Big Feat For Two Girls.” Heck, who am I kidding she wouldn’t have remembered there being a headline.
Memory is a tricky thing, no doubt about it. What causes us to remember some things while other memories are lost along the way? Just where do memories hide out? Ever find yourself remembering something right out of the blue, something you didn’t even know you remembered? Sometimes it’s scary, other times it’s rather pleasant especially when the memory is a fond one. Dwelling on the past is unproductive. Reminiscing, however, is pleasant. It tells us who we are by where we’ve been. It gives us a sense of where we belong in the world.
I’ve always known that each person has his or her own recollections of events. And when two people tell two slightly different stories, I’m willing to accept the fact that they’re probably both right. That’s why memoir pieces can be so tricky. How much is the real truth and how much is the truth as we remember it? And does it really even matter?
So what are your thoughts about the mind’s ability to recollect memories? Have you ever suffered from a memory malfunction? If so, I’d sure love to hear that story.