My little brother has horrible memory retention and yes, I admit that I have taken advantage of this knowledge over the years by performing, shall we say psychological experiments, and inserting some fake memories. Take for instance when, as a baby he was taken around to be shown off as the freshly baked little prince at my dads work. Mum has told me the story, since I don’t remember it myself and basically, they never left the car. It was just a passing visit on the way home from the hospital and anyone who was interested could come down to the car and ooh and ahh over the baby as Dad no doubt beamed with pride now that he finally had a son. Now, in my brothers mind (I swear I couldn’t help myself) this event was more his naked baby body being ceremoniously shown around the office. Think of the opening sequence to The Lion King and you get the picture.
Remembering this little bit of mind manipulation, I began to think about memories and how easily they are altered. It is rather common knowledge that police don’t hold the highest regard for eye-witness accounts, particularly from crowds of people due to the different perceptions and hazy recollections. Apart from that, skilled interrogators can slip information to the witnesses without them consciously realising that they are being spoon fed information to pad the story and perhaps skew it in a certain direction.
I have found my self having what I think is crystal clear memories of certain times, places and events and almost completely blocking other things out. Preschool for instance I can remember quite a bit of. I remember playing with a girl I had grown up with, the inside of the building, the smurf bedding set that would cover my bunk and the tapes that we got to listen to during nap time. I remember being the one most often chosen to pick out the days tape and usually choosing my favourite – which the rest of my class would have been sick of listening to. I found out from the friend I had gone through Preschool with that we used to hang around with a boy called Christopher and that he continued to ask after me long after Preschool was over. I have zero recollection of this kid (well he would no longer be a kid now). Primary school was pretty much the same. A close-knit little community where from at least Grade 4, I knew most people’s names. High School is another matter. I was in the same class as my brother-in-law and to hear him talk about some of the different people we went to school with really makes me believe we were in different schools. Few of the names sound familiar to me which is odd considering I apparently spent years around these people. Yes, I remember some things, like that bitch Nikki pouring boiling water over my hand in Home Ec. And I remember sneaking smokes down on the terraces and finding the art teachers stash of weed hidden in the carvings he had made of from the Dark Crystal. I remember starting to skip school from Grade 9 after the sports teacher made me play soccer (and actually kick that ball) even though I had a broken toe after a run in with the corner of a cupboard and getting a lift to the train station from the Principal when he caught me walking out the school gates towards the Train Station. I may have told him I was meeting Mum at the hospital – good thing I had that squeaky clean persona.
Looking back at events, especially during family get togethers, it can become evident quite quickly how different we all perceive things. My older sister looks back at the house we grew up in with what I tend to call rose-coloured glasses. Yes, we had some good times in the house, for me any times I was with my puppy or my Grandparents were over were good times however truth be told I would gladly burn that place to the ground. I have always seen myself as more of a realist. My favourite place on the planet is North Stradbroke Island or Straddie as we usually call it. My family would spend most holidays there and generally at least 4 weeks a year. Mum had old ties to the island and would tell us of times when she was younger and visiting family, back before the bitumen roads and indoor plumbing. I have had my share of painful experiences on the island and even though I remember those events, it doesn’t change my love of the place or the instant calm that washes over me the second the car leaves the barge. I have spent hours during morning, noon and late into the night walking by myself along the sandy beaches and breathing in the crisp salty air. It is my private little retreat and I hope to make it back there soon.
Other places are instantly soured in my mind due to negative connections. No matter how much I try to forget the negatives and find some positives, those places will always see me on edge and anxious to leave.
My partner loves to say that I am keeping tabs on everything. At times, during discussions I will be certain I have the correct recollection of something and will back this up by telling him what we were both wearing, eating, etc. He absolutely hates it although he usually ends up conceding defeat. I do not mean to remember the things I do. If I had proper control of my memories, I would cement the images, sounds, feelings of all those people who have been dearest to me (many of which are now gone and exist only in the strongest of memories). I would erase most of the negatives (not all, as I believe that it is largely through pain that people grow. The words Knowledge through Pain are in fact tattooed on me.)
What happens when people have strong belief that they are the ones that remember events truthfully? What do you do when the image they have of the past is in conflict with your own? Perhaps, all we can do in these circumstances is trust in our own memories (as much as such things can be trusted) and allow the other person to trust in theirs. What are we, after all, but a collection of memories and paths we have taken because of, or in spite of our pasts.