MEMORIES

“What is your earliest memory?” We ask this of siblings and friends alike. Do we really remember those very early events of childhood, or have we become familiar with them through the repetition of family stories or from paging through the family photo albums so often?

What do children do now that photographs are digitally stored on an adult’s computer to which they have no easy access? Do families with young children go through their digital collections with their children now and then whilst recounting events from when they were really small?

“Do you remember when …? Conversations with family and friends can toss up, stir and retrieve memories of events we might have thought were forgotten – that we had even forgotten that we had forgotten them. Then, in those moments of reliving past events with others the smells, sights, sounds, feelings and people return in a flash. We find we can add details others may have forgotten as their anecdotes revive our own memories – all of which emerge stronger and clearer than before.

Some memories are attached to things. I don’t know who owns it now, or even if it is ever used, but my mother often wore a brooch that for some reason we children used to call her ‘flea cage’. Just thinking about it in absentia brings my lovely mother to the fore, along with the wish that we could still converse. There are other more banal items that do the same, such as her (now) very tattered Concise Oxford Dictionary that she kept at hand for cryptic crosswords and that was the arbiter of our Scrabble games.

Memories fade when they are not shared and revived when they are. Sometimes a particular sound, smell, texture or sight opens the floodgate of memories either happy or less so. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and writer, has been quoted as commenting that

We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and re-categorized with every act of recollection.

It is that act of recollection that we owe to our children: the sharing of their upbringing and ours; the threads that root us to our families; the lifeline for the years ahead. As families scatter across the globe in pursuit of better careers or more comfortable and secure lifestyles, memories are what keep us together. Nurture them!

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12 thoughts on “MEMORIES

    • Printing them will provide her with many hours of pleasure as she looks back on past events she has been a part of. I recently found an album containing photographs of my mother and her family before she was married: it has opened a new window into what her life must have been like whilst growing up.

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  1. These last few days saw a lot of conversations that began with “Do you remember when …?” in our house. There were many stories being shared and it was fun. Some are remembered by some, while others not so much. Imagine my surprise when my son couldn’t remember anything at all of the harrowing experience we both had by going down the wrong way on a one-way! It is something still fresh in my mind but he seems to have completely forgotten it now. 🙂

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    • Family gatherings make the best “Do you remember when…?” occasions. It is often surprising what our children do remember – often things we might have forgotten. Obviously the one-way episode held no long-lasting terrors as they have for you 🙂

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  2. I think I’ve said this before, but just imagine if the internet and blogs were available and used all those hundreds of years before! We are documenting our personal history every day.

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    • That is true: if we look back on them we realise just how much of ourselves and our interests are revealed in them – often illustrated too – and so much easier to read than very old letters or diaries!

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  3. So many thoughts I want to respond to here! You bring to the front of my mind many things that I think about a lot.

    About our blogs, and how we put so much of ourselves into them: Have you considered making a print book of some of your blog posts to more securely preserve this part of “you” and make it available in a more concrete and accessible way to your grandchildren? I want to do this, but it seems a huge project. I have published over 1,000 posts and just deciding which ones are candidates for inclusion is a daunting task. I’d rather write more of them. But I wonder if, after I’m gone, anyone would take the trouble to find my blog, if it even exists, and read there.

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    • Thank you for your insightful response.You echo my thoughts on the matter: how to preserve what we write in a more ‘concrete’ manner; is it worth preserving; and would anyone find them after we’re gone – what would they think of our musings anyway? As I ponder, the number of posts grow!

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