Wednesday, 9 June 2010

A never-ending stream of consciousness.


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 -

Whip-se-diddle-de-dandy-dee.

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.

25 comments:

Rachel Fox said...

I think my earliest memory is listening to 'The Jungle Book' soundtrack LP (vinyl of course). I think I was in a pram...but I was maybe toddler age. The family story is that I enjoyed the music so much that I threw myself out of my pram and was found dangling by elastic. I don't remember that bit but I remember the sensation of listening and the room. It might be an invented memory...or a later memory welded to an earlier one. Who knows?

x

Eric Alder said...

I have a vague memory of sitting on the back steps at my old house singing 'Tiptoe through The Tulips' (which was popular at the time, about 1968, so I was about 4 or 5 years old)

Many of my oldest memories aren't crystal clear - more like feelings and associations than actual recollections. They're often triggered by smells, or the occasional déjà vous at a sight or sound or place.

I certainly feel my memory itself isn't as sharp. (It's hell getting old, ain't it?) Maybe when we go to Heaven we're all kids again. :)

Gwei Mui said...

My earlist memory is of the flight from Hong Kong to the UK - well part of it, being sick down the back of a BOA air hostess! I was eleven months old. For ages I thought thsat this was a false memory apparently not.

Denise said...

My earliest memory was my Dad bringing our dog Skipper home for the first time and I remember pure happiness. I was in my mother's arms so I must have been a toddler. The older I get I remember things from my childhood more and more. A very interesting post and very enjoyable, thank you.

Denise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eryl Shields said...

My earliest memory is of moving into our house, I must have been about two and I remember sitting on a crate by the kitchen door, as my father and other men brought in box after box, shivering. The wallpaper had pictures of tomatoes on it and was peeling and grey and slightly scary. My father looked at me as he dumped yet another box down and said: 'don't worry it will all be alight tomato.' To which I answered: 'Tomato?!' whereby he looked bewildered and went out again.

Heather said...

I find that places or events tend to merge with the passing of time, so that I end up with a recollection that is a blend of more than one place or event - very confusing. I think my earliest memory is of a circus parade passing the gate of the house where we lived in Horsham, Sussex. But do I really remember it or do I simply remember the memory?

Titus said...

Weaver, I'm assuming this is one of the earliest because of the potty.
Our house in Romford was one of those that had been added onto endlessly over the decades and half-centuries, so that the wall between the little living room and the kitchen used to be an external wall, and still had an opening window in it. Visitors always came into the kitchen first, as the front door was rarely used.

Anyway, I was sat on the potty watching the television (sort of a public information film about the life-cycle of the rainbow trout) and someone came in to speak to my mother. I think it was the first time I had ever experienced embarassment, which is possibly why it sticks in my mind so strongly.
It was a yellow plastic potty: close my eyes I can see it as clear as a bell. And that room, and the window latch.

Mistlethrush said...

Memories are precious. Glad you enjoy yours. Maybe I should have done the same as you and kept dipping into mine but sadly I've now forgotten most of mine.

However, I find photos a blessing as they do trigger bits of recallings.

C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

Such a true posting. I always become a bit frightened when I try to recall something and it doesn't immediately pop into my mind...is it the beginning of Altzheimers? or only the overloading of a brain utilized over a long, full life? I'm hoping it's the latter since I have lots more to do before I'm ready to give up my memory.

Always enjoy your postings, Weaver.

Arija said...

WHEN MY BEST FRIEND DIED AT THE EARLY AGE OF 41, I LOST MORE THAN HALF OF MY TEENAGE MEMORIES. Whenever we got together, by prompting each other, our memory bank would not only double, but quadruple as a prompt from one or other would awaken events seemingly long forgotten by both.
My earliest memories are from when I was two or three, but my sister can actually remember being born!

Bonnie said...

Enjoyed wading in your stream Pat.
My first memory is of playing with a big red fire truck my father bought me (HIMSELF!) - wondering what it was and what to do with it. Must have been 18 - 24 months.

Mark Kreider said...

I'll never forget the confusion that my magna cum laude dad experienced as he gradually lost his memories... first the recent, then later most everything. I find that having photos of the past help and heighten my memories. A picture is worth a thousand words!

BT said...

I just loved reading your memories Weaver. I agree, it is harder to recall some things now, but with me and many people I suspect, it's names. Plant names in particular! I can clearly remember my first day at school so I was 5 by then. I also remember going in the back of our car to our caravan on the Isle of Sheppey. We used to get into our sleeping bags and lie down as it was a station wagon. As I drifted in and out of sleep, I remember the sounds of my parents talking quietly in the front. A lovely memory.

Hildred and Charles said...

The haunting melody of Ramona floods my memory with a picture of my mother, singing, while she swept the floor. I also remember standing in my highchair, in what passed for Dr. Dentons in those days, wailing and crying and calling for my mother who came rushing in from outside where she may be been hanging out clothes, but I don't remember that part. In all honesty these memories have been with me so long that I suspect now I remember that I remembered them vividly at one time. Memory is a very elusive creature, and I have been most interested in researching it, and I wonder why some things are so clear in our minds while so many of the days of our lives are just a blur? Very curious.....

dinesh chandra said...

good post mam good flowers i visited the blog after many days because of bussy schudle of my job. but good post .

regards

dinesh chandra

The Weaver of Grass said...

Lovely reading of all your early memories. I smiled at them and it reminded me of the film - I think it was Gigi - and the song, sung by Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold(?) - 'I remember it well.' How fickle our memories are really - but how wonderful and who cares if they are not strictly accurate - they are ours alone and we can revel in them.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Eric - 'getting old' born in 1964 - well that makes me prehistoric!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Eryl - I remember those old wallpapers - we had one in our living room which was just covered in berried holly and one one the stairs which was a poppy field! Obviously your Dad was so overcome by the strength of the tomatoes that they took over. That made me laugh in these days of minimalism.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Titus - yellow potty embarrassment - that made me laugh too. Caught with your knickers down takes on a literal meaning.

The Weaver of Grass said...

On one thing we are all agreed - our memories - true, embroidered or false - are very precious to us.
Thanks for the memory, as they say (do you remember that song - I recall my brother playing it on our old wind-up gramophone eons agao)

Golden West said...

My mom was always busy in the garden, laying walkways with bricks, tending plants. She kept my older sister and me near at hand but from underfoot by having us "paint" the whitewashed fence. She's give us each a paint brush and container of water and I remember painting the fence oh so carefully for hours on ends.

Rusty said...

Your observations rang some interesting bells in memory. Be back later. ATB!

ArtPropelled said...

I think my earliest memory is of sitting on my mom's lap with my ear on her chest listening to her read a story. I must have been about two. I also remember a little neighbour tucking me into a cardboard box with a blanket up to my chin.

jinksy said...

I have a whole handful of memories that have to be from when I was less than three, because that was when my brother was born. Probably the earliest would have been being encouraged to walk by my cousin, who sat me on a step as a kind of half way house and called me to her! Then I distinctly remember the night my cot base collapsed, and left me lying at a strange angle,fett higher than head, at which point my gran looked across and said to my Mum 'She's alright, she's still tucked in!'Then of course, there were the bombs and other war memories...But here I still am, to tell the tale!