Saturday, April 4, 2015

Faulty and Forgotten Memories

Young people grow up today with social media implanted in their brain, part of their DNA. Those of us born BCA - Before the Computer Age - struggle to catch up, with varying levels of success. 

Facebook is one of a host of social media that ushered in a new wave of communications in the 21st century. I do not spend lots of time detailing my life on Facebook or any other social media. My blog posts make it onto my Facebook page along with an occasional cartoon posted by others.

One big advantage of the new communications over old-fashioned methods, like letter writing, is  trying to locate friends and acquaintances lost over the years. Of course some of them might prefer to remain lost, but that is another story...

We make new connections and reconnect with old ones, however tenuous the relationships may be.

Last week I received a Facebook message from an individual from my distant past. We crossed paths decades ago, specifically during elementary school and junior high. We are talking the 50s and 60s.

The correspondence jolted memory lobes. My life during my early teen years are a jumble of very, very diffused and blurry pictures. Names, dates, specific events are nothing more than a bunch of vague images. For reasons unknown I rarely think about those years. 

Greg's message rattled memory files buried deep within my brain. It took a while after reading the note to extract them and recollect.

Some of us have great memories, others not so much. My mother-in-law's memory for dates, names, and specific events is phenomenal. My memory, on the other hand, acts like a sieve. Names and dates enter and, although perhaps stored somewhere in the recesses of my head, may as well be gone. 

Forever. Or until jolted by an outside stimulus and shoved to the forefront of my cortex, or whatever that part of the brain is called.

I remember some of the people mentioned in the message, but not all. Did I ever know them?

He mentions a dance we attended. I have no memory of the event. Maybe one day, in a dream, the event will replay in my mind.

Or maybe not.  

Maybe I do not want to remember. I have read that over time we forget negative memories, or change them, making them more tolerable when eventually, if ever, remembered.

Our brains have an unlimited capacity for storing data. However I think at a certain point in our life, when data - a.k.a. memories - need to be stored, old, musty, unused files are tossed out, or at least thrown into a dusty bin, mixing with other unneeded files.They become difficult to retrieve, reorder and remember decades later.

Ask individuals who experienced a similar event to tell their story. Our family recently did this, and after four of us recounted our stories, one son commented, "Did we even grow up in the same house?"

Our mind plays tricks with our memories. They become a combination of the real and semi-real, the reconstructed, the forgotten, the misremembered.  

Anyway, thank you Greg for taking the time to contact me and force me to dig deep and remember.


  1. Our mind plays tricks with our memories. They become a combination of the real and semi-real, the reconstructed, the forgotten, the misremembered.

    --as Brian Williams knows only too well.

  2. I had to laugh at the comment from your son. My 3 grown-up kids certainly have different memories and I too wonder if they grew up in the same house... which of course they did.

  3. Memory is so elusive. It puzzles me at times. Like you, I've wondered about why I don't remember some things. Recently, I read a letter that I had written to my parents while I was in college. In the letter, and in subsequent letters, I read about a young man I had dated on more than one occasion. I had no memory of him at all. Finally, I asked a friend from college days about him. "Oh yes. He was there at college with us. You dated him. He was a great guy and became a much respected school principal." Craziness. I still don't remember him, but had to laugh that he like my husband became principals.

  4. I have found that people who remember 50 years back to their school days are the ones who have maintained an ongoing and close contact with friends from that time period or with siblings who like to talk about the old days. If you are not in that category, and I am not, your recollection can be minimal and spotty, which mine is!

  5. I am astonished by how little I remember about so many times. I remember the high points, but that's about it. Sometimes not even that.