Everyone sing along!
Because of some of the posting going on at Ask Moxie, I've been thinking about memory.
Now, I know that memory is malleable - it isn't a picture of exactly what happened, it is a retelling of what was remembered and interpreted and remembered and interpreted, sometimes blended with other things. I have memories that I was sure took place a year apart that I later found out took place two weeks apart, they just had a huge gulf between them in my experience. I have some very clear memories of early childhood all the way to infancy, but I have had to write them out because they lose clarity and shift over time. I can no-longer feel the immediacy or the physicality of the memory of flying around the room, I can only remember that I used to feel them. (Flying around the room: probably around 4 weeks old, room was tones of gray so I assume it was dark/night, memory starts with a sense of relief because the Large Warm One has appeared. I fly through the air to the Large Warm One, over that horizontal hard thing that resides above and to the side of the flat place, and there I rest at that angle that is right, feeling the Mass and Warmth, and I fly around the room backwards for a while, my head bobbing, the corners of the room and the joins of wall and ceiling and the doorway are points of my awareness of the loop, the walls are just fluffy-ish murky gray nothings. My interpretation is that the large warm one was my dad - there's just the hint of scent memory identification, but there's no sense of Dad-ness, or even love or affection - more a kind of surety of satisfaction, I think. He was just one of the things that happened when I was unhappy. I was unaware of being picked up - I just flew. I was unaware of his legs or the sense of walking, again, I flew around, while resting against him, but it was utterly disconnected from the act of being carried. It was more like the warmth and mass flew with me, not like I was being carried. My head bobbing didn't even feel like steps taken, it felt like my just head bobbed - no cause, no interpretation, no meaning. It just bobbed up and down while I flew around the room backwards. I didn't even have an awareness that the sounds that happened when I was unhappy came from me. They were just another thing that happened when I was unhappy, and they were largely unimportant to me - even in the memory, they're kind of a background thing. I was unaware of want as a separate aspect of experience, and even the 'unhappy' was just a state of being, and not something 'wrong'. Every moment was the only moment. I did have enough memory to recognize the pattern of 'The Large Warm One' - I registered his mass (compared to my mom, I presume), and I knew to expect to fly to him when he appeared. There was a definite pleasure in knowing that I would fly to him when he appeared beside the flat thing with the high hard edge to the side (my crib, I assume - I couldn't roll yet, so I had no idea the shape of the flatness, or what held up the high hard edge - I only knew what I could see well or had felt, and that meant edges, bright contrast, and things I'd been bumped or brushed against). It's a very strange world babies live in...)
Anyway, while I still have that detail, I can remember remembering it with the full visceral awareness, the feeling of feeling it. But the actual memory only has tags of that now, if I step back into it, I can't feel them anymore. It has been worn around the edges from repeated viewing, re-saved in the form it was when I remembered it this time, and re-saved again the next time it comes to mind, too. It is a memory of a memory of a memory. Which is why I write them down. I miss the crystaline quality of the first few times I remembered them. Ah, well.
I have a long string of memories, of staring at the carpet under my nose, and even of being older (somewhere in mid-toddler) and loving to lie flat on the rug and remember looking at that other rug in the past. I thought carpet was cool, up close. Sparkles and texture and little bits of fluff or dog hair and in between the cords of each strand, sometimes unknown magical multi-colored bits of other things (my mom kept the carpet reasonably clean, but I doubt the vacuums of the era were up to what they are now). I can remember being carried in the laundry basket, on top of the laundry, with the basket bumping against my mom's hip as she walked (basket in front). I remember the intensity of the colors of the world when I was in a fussy stage (noted because I was always being carried during fussy stages, go figure), everything was so intense, so joyful, so overwhelming, so sweet it felt like I could taste it through my skin - which meant I was into everything, wanting to touch stuff to see if that expectation was true. The world was so beautiful that a dewdrop could break my heart with its perfect brilliance. My parents were heat and reassurance and light and laughter. I don't have very many negative memories of them at that age, though I'm sure there were plenty around. I just wasn't the kind of kid who captured that information much. A few scary things from a bit older, maybe as old as 6, but maybe younger - I have no reference for age on this one - the car going around a corner with me in the back seat, and the door swinging open, my dad stopping the car immediately, turning around to reach for me at the same time, the look of relief and the echo anticipated disaster on his face - man, I'm glad cars now have alarms to tell you that the door is ajar, and that there are seatbelts in back seats. I can remember the slippery feel of the seat as I grabbed for it and leaned hard away from the unexpectedly open door. I'd spread my hands out to create maximum friction. He said something about something similar having happened when my brother P was in the car, I think. But that part didn't matter so much to me. What mattered to me was that he'd stopped, and the flash of relief on his face to see that I was okay, and the followup rumble of approval in his voice for my immediate action to prevent sliding out of the car off the slippery surface. I think we were the only ones in the car. Not sure.
Anyway, many of those - of my mom laughing while I grabbed at her nose, and my desperate, addict-like need to make her laugh again (I couldn't stand yet, she was holding me up with both hands), of my dad mock scowling at me while I petted his hair flat because I liked how it felt that way.
What's interesting to me is that I have a harder time with many of the memories of my kids. The adult memory isn't so pure, visceral, or clear, at least for me. I remember some things quite clearly, but none have quite the immediacy of the childhood memory. It's like the memory is laid down on top of something else and comes up somewhat lumpy. I have to work at preserving the memories more - I have to write stuff down, or it goes murky, or blurry, or I lose track of it all together. I'm glad I was on a message board when the kids were babies, because I can go back and look at how I remembered this or that when the experience was fresh (I copied and saved a lot of the old posts).
I realized shortly after Mr G was born that this was going to be the way of it. I wrote his birth story very soon after he was born, and then just a week later, re-read it... and there was stuff in there I'd already forgotten, or for which my interpretation had changed. I left that one as it was, and wrote a new one with the new date, because I didn't want to change the memory on paper the same way it was changing in my mind.
It is somewhat like the process of traditional folk songs (I took a class in ethnomusicology in college, it was a blast) - where the emotional core of the song is captured by each singer, and they sing around that space. That's why what parts get passed on, changed, or adapted shift over time. The emotional core is what is important, and the tune just carries that message. Verses get removed, or modified, or added, to impart the message that the singer interprets as the heart of the song.
These are the days to remember - so I'm writing them down as much as I can. It's hard - time is short, and needs are long. But for today, what I want to remember from yesterday is:
- While I sighed when I woke up jammed between Miss M and Mr B on the pull-out bed in their room to discover that Miss M had peed and it had soaked my side, I wasn't angry or resentful. It was just what happens, and I had no loss of love over it. It wasn't a usual happening, but it wasn't too much of a problem.
- Laughing while playing pretend swordfighting at the bus-stop with Mr B, him running back and forth down the length of the sidewalk, and doing lunges at me (with good form, at that), casting magic spells (large-O!) to make his sword longer so it would count as a touch even though he was 20 feet away. Him snitching my comb out of my pocket and pretending to throw it into the street to get me to run toward him, so he could run away and then run back and crash into me for one of the full-force hugs he has loved all his life. Us laughing and laughing, and both of us knowing that the people driving by were likely laughing, too. The bus stop has its own life and duration, it's own rules. It is play time, with nothing else to do, and the only rules are the ones we make up ourselves. I love bus-stop days for that.
So, these are the days to remember. And see, I wrote those two down.