Monday, 5 October 2009

Rewriting History III

I am finding this an interesting theme for thought and there is a little more to come... Most of us rewrite personal history as well.

My first experience of this was with My Gran. She was a difficult lady. Widowed before my parents met and with only one child, she was never going to like my Mum, no matter how much she did... When I was about twelve, I very innocently caused a family row. My Mum, Gran, Sister and I had all been out and about. Things hadn't happened quite as my Gran would have liked and she went home stewing. By the time we next saw her she had convinced herself that things had happened slightly differently. She proceeded to complain to my Dad about what happened. I spoke up and contradicted her view of events.

It occurs to me in recounting this that she may have known she wasn't telling the truth. Who knows.... It always appeared that she brooded on things. With each telling she appeared in a slightly better light until she had the story just right, and of course, that was how it had been....

We all do this to some extent. The memory of pain vanishes, to become a memory of a memory of a memory. I think this is the minds way of protecting us. I think the same happens with things we do wrong. Imagine if we had to remember in 20:20 clarity every single wrong we had done. Imagine the weight of all that guilt. It would cripple us as people.

Thing is, I slowly rewrite the good stuff too. I just forget it. I have an awful memory. What did I do when i was 14? Where did I go at 17? How did I feel after my first kiss? Which one exactly WAS my first kiss? I am not sure everyone has quite as bad a memory as I do, but I think the principle is the same...

Shame, pain, fear, love all gone. A memory of a memory of a memory. A memory of the story I once told myself about how it happened.

Do we really want to live with the painful truth, every second?

Sometimes things happen that pierce our minds and we can't forget. A memory so strong, A pain so deep, a love so profound... Even they fade one day if we let them (or if we have a truly appalling memory). I have a piercing moment of memory from my childhood. Walking through wet grass in Autumn with flurries of Daddy Long Legs leaping out of the grass. It was a moment when I realised I was happy. When I just felt happiness and was present and there... No context, just that image.

Families write history too. Why did Grandma fall out with her sister? The polite fiction. What you tell the children. What is misunderstood by future generations. What is left out.


  1. Oh, so much goodness in this post...

    I,too, have a terrible memory....for all things - good, bad, indifferent...I'm frequently surprised by people recounting things I said or did of which I have absolutely no recollection..

    Family histories are very much open to the course of doing our family tree my mom has unearthed all sorts of strange and funny bits...

    I really enjoyed this...


  2. Thankyou Rose, I have just come from a family visit, where there was some havoc created, so I guess we all go through this, I am glad not to remember with 20/20 clarity. This was the perfect post for me today. It is interesting when comparing peoples interpretations of the same incident! Take care.