An MFRW Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop!
Memory is a funny thing. We recently watched Coco, a truly remarkable film about the Day of the Dead, centrally-focused on honoring the memories of loved ones, with those that are no longer remembered slipping away forever. The title of this post comes from a song woven throughout the movie.
My first memory is of moving to our new home. I was born in New York City, where we lived until I was a little over a year old. I have a distinct image of the netting of my playpen in my mind, as my parents unloaded the moving truck on our new suburban street in New Jersey. In my mind, I am in the street with the van, though rationally I know that isn’t true. I still enjoy busting my mom’s chops about it, of course.
But despite the logic, I still see the street around and I must acknowledge that in the distant, twenty-five-year-old memory, I truly believe I am in the street. Likely, I thought I was at the time, with my one-year-old perception skewed and disoriented. Because, after all, memory cannot be trusted.
To speak to an uncomfortable truth, I often don’t trust my own memory. I’ve always been a storyteller and a performer, and many of the stories I tell now are either exaggerated, altered, or entirely contrived from my own imagination. The problem is, I don’t always know which ones.
I don’t do it out of any sort of spite or ill-will. I just love telling stories and some stories are far better when people believe they’re real.
Because, at the end of the day, every memory is slightly made up, warped by our perceptions and perspectives at the time. It is why eyewitness accounts are so often incorrect and why we are quick to defend our understanding of a situation we believe happened one way that someone else believes happened another.
Memory is faulty and uniquely unreliable. Because we’re trying to remember correctly, but we often cannot see our own influences in the visions in our minds.
As a writer, that works for me just fine. Swirling, incomplete, unreliable memories are a fantastic tool to tell stories, both by using my own and forming someone else’s. A lack of trust in a story can add tension and power, and it can create conflict when two characters remember different things.
But it’s important to keep in mind that with great memories come great responsibilities. We don’t want to hurt the people in our lives with false memories and we don’t want to create circumstances we can’t come back from. If you’re looking to stir up some remembered troubles, save it for the page and let your characters duke it out. Or you could be like me and needle your mother for leaving her one-year-old child in the street while she moved. ♦