Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Memory and Time

What do you recall of your childhood? Do you totally trust your memory? Has it been aided by stories others have related?

Most of us are sure of our memories for the same reasons that Louise Banks states in the movie Arrival. We are bound by the order of time. So our first memories must be our earliest. Or vice versa. What we recall of our earliest years must be our first memories.

I have a memory, one of the early ones, of walking across a dusty rose colored couch with embossed swirls. The arms of the couch were only slightly higher than the couch itself. They were flat and probably about five or six inches across. I would climb up on the couch, toddle across it, step up on the arm, take a wobbly step or two, and crash down to the floor. These images are clear in my mind. How old was I? Maybe eight months. I started walking at seven months. Is my memory, the time and shape of it, really that crystalline for that time frame? I recall little else about that age.

I have another memory. This one is of my mother telling me this story to describe and emphasize her relationship with her sister ~ who didn't like that my mother tried to stop me from toddling across the couch. She told her sister, "Watch her." And I enacted the scene I described. My mother never described the color of the couch or the upholstery. I knew exactly what happened and how. I saw my aunt in my mind's eye. I heard her gasp as I tumbled off the arm of the couch. Had my mother's description become my memory? Had it triggered my memory? Had I recalled it on my own as she spoke? Had I dreamt it?

At the beginning of the year, we look back. Unless we have taken meticulous notes about our dreams, thoughts, memories, activities and relationships, we rely on the vision within our mind. Sometimes we remember an incident one way and another person involved remembers it another. Does that make one of us wrong? How does deja vu fit in?

A friend recently told a story about being in a clinic with a woman who was getting a biopsy. At one point, he felt she needed him. He followed that instinct and asked if he could go back to where she was. She was crying and said she'd been calling out to him. His isn't the only time I've heard this type of story. Where does that fit into our concept of memory? and time?

When you think about the past year, what is the first memory to show up? What is the strongest memory? What story/memory have you told, or has been told about and to you, often enough that you can recall every detail of it? What does memory mean to you? How do you experience memory in relationship to time?

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