Isn't memory a strange thing? Somehow I think that the older I get the more important memory becomes. Is this so, do you think or is it just the imagination of an ageing woman?
This came to mind with this month's local Writers' Group Theme, which is to write an open letter.
I thought it would be interesting to write a letter to my parents, who have both been dead for over thirty years. I have started putting the letter together and will share it with you in a few days time, but the whole thing got me thinking about memory.
As we age I think we all become scared of losing memory. I have a friend who has been in the clutches of Alzheimer's Disease for the past ten years (since the age of 52) and who now seems to have no memory at all. I find that particularly scary - I use my 'memory box' dozens of times each day and would feel totally lost without it.
Conrad famously said that ' in plucking the fruit of memory one runs the risk of spoiling its bloom.' I'm not sure that I agree with that - certainly not if one only remembers incidents oneself. I can see how discussing them with another person involved could lead to a spoiled memory - for one thing is certain, our memories are usually highly inaccurate. I think our brain reorganises and 'tarts up' our memories, so that we see them through the rose-tints.
During the 1939-45 war a school from the city of Leeds was evacuated to our little Lincolnshire village - my goodness, were they sophisticated and did we stand around goggle-eyed like little country yokels - yes we did. When Christmas came round their teachers (who had been evacuated with them) decided to put on a play in our village hall - a play the likes of which we had never dreamed of. I - and my friend Janet - were Goody Witches along with four others. We were dressed in black cloaks and black sugar-paper hats covered in stars. We carried besoms and we had our faces made up!!! And we sang:
As we dance we merrily dance,
the goody witches six are we.
To this plan we'll soon agree -
Readers - it was the highlight of my entire life - I would be about six or seven and I can remember it as though it were yesterday.
Recently I asked my friend Janet when we met whether she remembered it. She had absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever. Yes, I admit it Conrad, that did spoil the bloom a little.
But without memories of my childhood I certainly could not write this open letter to my parents because our past is a shared one. Until I began school at the age of 4 then almost all our memories would be shared - then gradually the shared memories would become less and less.
An early memory was of during a rook-shoot in our nearby rookery - I recall picking up a warm but dead rook in the garden. These little 'snapshot' memories are the best kind I think.
John Berger said that 'the camera relieves us of the burden of memory' - I am not sure that I agree with that either. I sometimes look at old snapshots and can recognise the people in the frame but have no recollection of the incidence of the shot.
So, I shall continue to enjoy my rich memories of my childhood and my time at home with my parents - and if (as is highly likely) my memories are a bit suspect - so what - there is nobody left to put me right.
What is your earliest memory? If you can recall it I would love to hear about it in my comments.