It is said that memories are what makes us who we are. The “who”, “what”, “where”, “when” and “why” that we remember is what makes our history.
Does it really?
We all know that our short-term memory is important on our survival. Our name, address, phone numbers, PIN numbers, passwords keeps us functional. It is like remembering to zip up our pants and not have someone remind us.
Part of it is the routine of doing the same thing every day over and over again. The coffee pot is in the same place and the bread is in the same place so there is no stress to remember where they are. We remember which knob is the hot water and which side to part our hair. We remember which cubicle is ours and when to take a coffee break. We remember our children’s names and recognize our face in the mirror.
Long-term memory can become fuzzy. We may remember the name of an aunt but can’t remember what she looked like. There are organizations that will trace every family member and whatever was recorded about them to help our long-term memory. Photos and family records help describe what our kids don’t know, but how much do WE really know.
Our memories are slanted and skewed and tainted by what history has to offer and what we wish had been. I can view photos of my former self and can feel the material of the shirt I’m wearing. I can tell you the colors in the shirt, the feel of the shirt and even the smell of the shirt. I cannot tell you when or where the shirt was bought or when it was thrown away.
Photos help to remind us and reinforce our memories. A photo of me in the snow with a sled is pretty much like every other family photo of their kids in the first snow. Even in a black and white print, I can remember how the hat felt, how tight the red jacket was, the rubber boots and even the splinters of the wooden sled. The other memory of that one photo brought back the moment in time where my family pushed me out into the cold as if the snow was going present something to me that I would find adventurous. Shoot, I was a city kid and a slow slid down a hill in the front yard into a bustling street full of slush was not what I was looking forward to.
Then there are those memories of people who were special in our lives. Over time our history with these people has filtered. What may have happened at the time has changed for both over the years. We seem to want to remember incidents to please ourselves.
As we get older our memories may be all we have left. And sometimes we forget. As we get older our memories may be all we have left.
Why does this catch my attention?
In about the mid-sixties, as I remember, I attended a concert of a fairly favorable rock band with a friend. After the show, as I remember, we both wandered backstage and somehow came away with a guitar.
The person and the show I thought where this incident happened do not jive with the person who I thought was also there. That person remembers the show, buying the tickets, enjoying the music, and returning to the campsite, but does not remember the guitar incident.
Confused? I was too. So I had to think of the other shows I saw of this same rock band.
I was positive this guitar came from this particular rock band. I had even seen them play it on television.
So why was I confused about this particular incident? I had a firm visual image of the backstage room and the images of the faces and the fear of being in the wrong place and grabbing whatever I could to make an escape without being detected.
Maybe it wasn’t the show I thought of or with the friend I thought of? Well, that is a perplexing problem to memory recreation.
One of the other shows, as I remember, was with my wife but I don’t think that was the show. This rock band had already become fairly famous by then so I don’t think security would just let us wander around there. Another show was in about the right time line but I don’t remember whom I went with or much about that show.
So what are my memories about a girl from the same time period? Was she as sweet as I remember? We’re we as good together or is it all filtered through time?
Unfortunately I kept diaries through much of this time and have a day-by-day record of what happened at the time.
Oh well, I have no solutions but will remember what I want to and how I want to remember it. That will be my history