Been ruminating on memory a lot these past few days and meaning to write my thoughts down but kept forgetting to do it. No, really.
Went to a memorial service for a relative recently and listened to personal reflections, many involving events I was present for, and found myself thinking, why don’t I remember that?, or that sounds vaguely familiar, but mostly, I don’t remember that at all.
Much of my distant past is a big blank spot. Seems the things I remember most are either the most painful, embarrassing moments or events that have become oft-told anecdotes. The latter trouble me a bit, because as a storyteller, I’m not above exaggeration or embellishment, and I worry, that over the years, the nugget of truth the tale was built upon, has been worn away by editorial license.
My mother passed the year I turned 17 and my remaining vision of her is equal parts myth and memory. Well-intentioned people have canonized her over the years, but as one of my sisters is wont to say, “Mom was no saint.” While I don’t believe I’ve tried to make her out to be one, I do carry with me a feeling that she was always one of the few people that could help me make sense of the world.
I was at a high school reunion years ago, and a classmate I’d had some interaction with back then, approached me and said what he remembered most was how effortlessly I moved through the different social circles. And I’m thinking, what the f–k are you talking about?! Because my recollection is one of awkwardness, constant self-loathing, and an unfulfilled desire to belong.
My siblings and my wife are sort of the USB’s of my life when it comes to memories. If I need something from my childhood fleshed out, one of my sisters undoubtably remembers it like it was yesterday. My wife’s recall is even scarier. She can tell you what people wore to specific events or relay practically every dream she’s ever had. I’m forced to defer to her version of events, even on those rare occasions where I actually do remember what took place.
I wish I remembered things from my past more clearly. It might go a long way towards easing my present state of mind. But to hear my siblings tell it, there was much of my childhood that was happy. Perhaps that’s the best way to remember it.