During April Fandango has invited us to revisit some of his earlier Provocative Question posts. I don’t remember if I joined in with this one originally which is ironic as it is about memory.
“How do you know which of your memories are genuine and which have been altered over time or even made up?”
Even though our long term memory is usually better than our short term one we don’t recall things the same way. Naomi sometimes mentions incidents from our childhood that I have no memory of whatsoever while I remember other things that she can’t recall. Generally if we both remember an event we remember it the same way even if the details are a bit different.
Our mother used to tell us very detailed stories about her younger days and seemed to have great recall but when she’d get together with her sisters they would argue about when and how things happened.
I guess that the only way to be sure that memories are genuine is if another person has the same memory or that there is evidence that the event happened the way you remember it.
My childhood memories, the ones I’m sure about, tend to be just snippets. Standing on a bridge looking down at railway lines. I queried this one because I was not tall enough to see over the railings as a young child. Mum told me that when I was about two my grandfather used to hold me up so I could see them. I don’t remember my grandfather doing this. I do remember the railway lines and trains.
I remember bits of our journey to Australia from England. When I remember how something looked or felt I think it is more likely to be a true memory
I think time makes memories dim. I don’t think it’s dementia. I think it’s the endless turning of the calendar’s pages. Time slowly breaks down many memories, especially those which weren’t considered — by us — to be important. Thus your early journeys were probably very important to the adults in your family, but less important to you. You had more fundamental needs because you were very small.
Not only do memories change, but because we grow up and get an education, our perspective on our own memories change too. It’s not replacing memories. It’s a reassessment, too.
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I think of it as like a computer hard drive that gets too full. You have to delete a few things to have room for more. Many things I did in the past I’ve forgotten the details of now. I just have the warm, fuzzy memory of a good time. The train story I always remember though because I’ve been a lover of trains my entire life and I wonder if that early experience with my grandfather was what kicked it off. Unless loving trains is genetic. There was an engine driver in the family up the line somewhere I believe.
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I think you meant to link to Fandango’s post but I’m sure people will find it.