Tag Archives: Memories

The Memory Lane

How is it that some events make their way into our permanent memories, where we are able to immediately access them and play them back in full HD, while others just seem to vanish from our consciousness like mist in the midday sun? And it’s not an indictment of the memory either. It could actually be an important memory, of a special occasion or a life milestone. It could be an entire chapter or a page or even a single line from the book of our lives and without even knowing it, part of our story is gone.

It is true to say that some memories would be better off  left in the recycling bin; for instance I could easily ditch the memory of the smug face of the delinquent bully, several years older (and heads taller) than I who bashed my face against a pole, snapping one of my front teeth in half when I was in primary school. Or indeed the horrific afternoon spent dry-heaving against an empty stomach due to a poor decision, taken a couple of hours before, to try and consume a full bottle of whiskey in a Guinness record time with two equally misguided friends. We even crushed the bottle cap to show our commitment to the foolishness. Yes, I could easily forget those two wretched memories.

But forgetting something is not quite as permanent as say, dropping your iPad into a swimming pool without an iCloud backup. There is a way to bring those memories back to life, to rescue them from the abyss.

The secret is family.

Recently I’ve been reminded of parts of my childhood that I’d all but forgotten. It’s not that I was just sitting around self indulgently fretting about my lost memories, actually I was none the wiser. I had no idea there were pieces missing. But then circumstance brought my nuclear family, previously spread out across the globe, together again in a single room and then as if by magic, somewhat dusty boxes full of memories from my youth were opened and lovingly unpacked. Even things I thought I had a clear memory of were given a new spin just by having them narrated back to me from another perspective.

As I watch my two little minions learning, making memories and experiencing the wonder of the world they live in, I can’t help but think that in any given situation, they are both seeing the same thing, but are taking away from it different memories. Even this blog, which I originally started so that I could record the day to day antics of of the little guys, is merely a perspective from a single vantage point, my own.

I resolve, from now on make an effort to see their days through both sets of eyes. To ask them each to tell me about their day at the beach, or in the park or on their bikes or simply sitting in the living room surrounded by a mirriad of lego creations and pieces. They will, in each instance, come away with different memories of those days. I would like to try preserve as many of those days for them as I can.

I also resolve to encourage both my boys to keep a journal. That is what this blog amounts to really. It’s a journal of my sons from my perspective, until they’re ready to write their own stories.

Speaking of journals, they’ve come a long way since the black leather bound book with the year embossed on the front where a small padlock guarded the pages. Now you can use an iPad (and spellchecker) to upload your thoughts to the cloud. You can blog (or vlog) them into the ether for everyone to see or you can encrypt them in a 128-bit vault where only the most determined NSA cryptographers can get a peek at them.

I must say that, as I type this, I’m eager to see what my boys will say in their very first journal entries. I’ll ask if I can read them of course. What will I find out about them? Will one of them confess to eating all of the Nutella? Will they reveal the location of the spare AppleTV remote?

Perhaps. But it’s far more likely though that all I’ll find out is that they wipe freshly picked boogers under the kitchen counter when we’re not looking.


The big deck of cards

How much of your life can you actually remember? Certainly the first few years must be a bit of a smudge where you only recall a few stand-out moments, flashes mostly. Whatever the memories, you won’t have many of them. As you get older, they begin to coalesce a little, become more dense, richer until you have chunks you can recall with much more detail, images in sharper contrast with sound and smells and echoes that are textured with emotion.

But as I think back in my life so far and try to step through the years, I find that even those years that I should remember well like my last few in primary school or indeed even my first few in high school, I can’t really remember that much, I only have selected moments.

It’s as if my memories from each year of my life are a deck of cards that have all been laid out on a dealers table in front of me in a sweeping arc from left to right, oldest to youngest. On the far left, the cards are all densely packed together and hardly anything is recognisable except for a few individual cards that stand askew. I have a memory of sitting in front of a fireplace in a nappy, don’t know if I was alone or not. A memory of a sunny day in winter in nursery school where I was trying to do a cartwheel, can’t remember if I got it right or not. A memory of my first day of primary school, in a safari suit uniform, scampering around the classroom looking for the best seat in the house. A vivid memory of the day it snowed where my family and I made snowmen in the garden and watched our two small dogs bound in and out of view in the white, still afternoon.

These are the individual moments from my earliest childhood that have survived the passage of time, at least that is, as far as I can tell, they may actually be corruptions of the truth because memory is fluid.

Then as the years progress to the right, the spacing of the cards gets a little wider and it’s easier to identify a run of cards of the same suit here and there, sometimes they’re even in sequence. These are memories of a period of time that I remember a little more clearly because they were important or special and I was old enough for them to stick. I remember a long holiday in Cape Town with many days on the beach rounded off with refreshing swims in a crystal clear swimming pool. A cable car ride and lots and lots of mango’s bought every day on the side of the road on the way back from the beach. Watching reel to reel movies with my family on an old projector against the dining room wall complete with the clickety-clack background noise, the odd break in the film that had to be fixed with tape and the reel changeover half way through.

But mostly, in these earlier years the cards are all still merged together so much so that I can’t really recall any detail about them other than that they’re cards and that they’re red or black. Sometimes the suite is visible, but sometimes it’s not. The card number itself is rarely in plain sight and can’t easily be differentiated from the rest and it’s a poorly shuffled deck making the order of the memories a little difficult to comprehend as well.

The closer to the right I get the better things are arranged. Large runs of cards in suit and numbers much more clear but obviously there are still plenty of jumbled cards where nothing important enough happened on that day to make it stand out from any other. Even a few years of my working career are quite vague as if I were living a somewhat lackluster life at the time. But I remember in complete detail my matric dance. A holiday where I bungee-jumped and river-rafted and came within a breath or two of drowning. The day I got my first new car and subsequently my first few traffic fines. The very first time I kissed my wife, before she was my wife. The day I proposed to her, a warm, somewhat cloudy day in a huge green garden. My wedding day in mid-summer with family and friends all around. The days that my children were born, respectively storming and windswept and sunny and clear.

I often wonder how much my boys are going to remember from this time in their lives. If my past is anything to go by, they won’t remember much at all really. I think about this quite often; is there is anything I can do to spread their cards out a little more at this age so they have a better shot at remembering some of the most special days that my wife and I have spent with them? The first swim in the ocean, the first ice-cream, the first airplane ride. Bedtime stories read out loud from a new book. Lying outside on a trampoline covered in coloured plastic balls, giggling at the bouncing, rolling palette of fun. The very first Christmas morning. The list is endless.

The sad thing is, I can’t guarantee any of their memories. I can’t say with any certainty which of them will survive the journey through time. Perhaps then I should just try to fill each of their days with laughter, but not just smiles and giggles, which are important too, but also those uncontrollable, all encompassing belly laughs that seem to last forever and twist them up like pretzels so much so that they literally roll on the floor laughing, something we as adults of the twitter age talk about all the time but never do. This with the hope that when my boys look back on their childhoods, the blur of memories they see is one big jumble of smiles and laughter. In short, a happy childhood.

Yes, I think that’s the way to do it.