Memories are not what you think.
Or rather, what you think is not your memories.
After serious study and countless corrections, it would seem to me that the only accurate thing you take away from history is a feeling
Ever been asked about an early childhood memory? So vivid in your mind. But then your parents chime in, No, no, that was actually Uncle so-and-so. That was really Christmas at blah de blah’s.
Your memory seems so strong. You know it so personally. But think about what that memory is. Is it a time or place filled with facts?
Or is it more specific in a less specific way?
If we un-think about it for a moment, memory is fairly fluid. Our childhood memory even more so. People often remember an event but when questioned the places, the people, the color, the time, the details of a memory are more often filled-in blanks than cold hard facts.
So what’s the filling
Not facts or figures. More like shades of sensations: warmth, love, protection, fear, wonder.
And scale? How wondrous! To be a woodland child in the immense forest of towering Redwood adults.
Irrelevant details? Magical! I can tell you more about the space beneath my father’s roll-top desk than the man who owned it for longer than I had been alive.
And feelings? Those are the priceless collector’s first edition notes we send to ourselves. From a 7-year old me to the adult I am today.
Today I’d like to read to you from the biggest book in the library of little me. It’s a great work called: Mom v. Fear. (I know this is a blog post, so my Homeric epic will be the abridged version. Don’t worry, I’ve got excellent Cliff’s notes.)
In Chapter I – My Mom sits a very young me down and tells me she is going to magically make my favorite freckle on the back of my hand disappear. (Yes, I had and have a favorite freckle.) Abracadabra, 1, 2, 3... with a wave over the hand, I disappear thee.
Gone! Holy crap it’s gone! (more like internal dialogue) A witch! A God! All powerful and VERY scary! I want my freckle back!!!
And seeing I’m clearly upset, she immediately makes it come back. Ah, nothing to fear
, she says and the magic is undone.
Later editions footnote this chapter by adding the protagonist used skin concealer make-up to make my freckle disappear. Regardless, the moral of the story becomes a major plot point: Nothing to fear and anything is possible.
Chapter II- Three very large leather-clad bullies linger on a street corner. NYC. The mean streets. The movie “The Warriors” is still in theaters. Oh, this is bad. Very bad. Bad bad bad. I won’t ever walk past this corner. These guys are dark angels of hell. Hell’s Angels! Maybe literally, yes, I'm seven, I know.
Mom sees this, me, them. Senses my fear like only a mother can and employs her super-power Southern genetic gift for gab.
Will we gain passage past the evil Tri-leather-clad-clops? Hey, watchya guys doing? Yeah? That’s cool...
More of this, more of that. Gab. Gab. Gab. Soon those big guys are all laughing and telling us the way to the David Copperfield show on Broadway.
Magic! Poof. Or an act of illusion? History reveals the antagonists may have been more like “The Village People,” their evil biker leathers more like ass-less chaps. But the plot point?
Stunning! Fearless! You can walk up and disarm an entire street gang with easy-going banter? Brilliant!
Chapter III (Then time for bed, young man) – Evil corporate giant goes toe-to-toe with my mom. Battle royale.
The details are sketchy because almost no one survived to tell the tale, but this eyewitness recalls a small boy playing with a toy inside a massive multi-national corporate giant’s headquarters only to be lambasted by the CEO of said company. Authority incarnate vs. the little guy. Hurt and humiliated, I tell my mom.
And what does she do? She goes AFTER the evil corporate giant! How dare you scold a little boy for playing with the toys. This is ‘Toy World’ after all!
The nuanced logic may have been lost on me at the time, but the essence wasn’t.
Get up. Stand up. Stand up for your rights! (SING IT!!!)
I was never more proud. My mom defeats authoritarian fear itself!
The moral of the story? Honestly? The moral is: the book of my memory is a bad read because the details and accounts are sketchy at best. I took scant notes for this book report, yet somehow the meaning has been fused to my soul. And to this day, those memories are the sole notes I’ve sent to my adult self.
And when in doubt, use concealor. Fake it 'til you make it. I remember. And I am: fearless. And with an overly heroic sense of self, I’ll throw myself into anything. Without fear. Why not? There’s nothing false about bravado! I learned from the best. My mom. She wrote the book.
And that’s a perfectly accurate memory as far as I’m concerned.
You see, the “real” facts only trivialize the story. They aren’t important. The better editors of our imagination cross them out with red ink. History may be made by those who write it. But reality is made by those who feel it.
So, for today’s Petunia Face guest blog I humbly ask my sister’s readers to take one moment to look at their child. Right now. And try to imagine... What are they remembering from this very same moment?
It’s probably not what you think. And exactly how they feel.
These are the notes they’ll send to themselves in the future.
And this is your chance to be a Ghostwriter.