Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What I Remember

(Warning:  The word "remember" is used a lot in this post!)

I started thinking about this several months ago: I can't remember a single birthday party from my childhood.

I quizzed my siblings about it and they had a few memories, but most of them were things like I remember when my eyelashes caught on fire from the candles, I remember that Mr. Pennisi was missing one year (a friend who was murdered), I remember friends being mean to me. They also remembered good things, certain people who were at the parties, and that my grandmother made the cake.

From trying to remember my birthday parties, I've been really concentrating on what else I don't remember, but then of course I can't think of those things because I don't remember them!  But when I put together a list of what I do remember, it looks like this:

I remember when my grandmother pointed to a freckle on my foot and I was embarrassed.

I remember when I fell off my bike and slid down the hill on the side of my face. I remember going to school the next day, being in the cafeteria and very self-conscious of the bandage on my face.

I remember eating black construction paper in kindergarten (I was a paper addict) and the teacher jerking me off the swing, making me swish out my mouth with milk and how she called my mother to come get me.

I remember being afraid to go to the school store in first grade to buy a pencil and how my school birthday party got snowed out.

I remember being very homesick at my grandparents house and my aunt getting mad at me for it.

I remember eating cheese doodles and drawing with crayons and eating a crayon instead of a cheese doodle.

I remember the dark room where my sister and I went to Bible School at Carolina Beach.

I remember crawling on the floor looking for a needle that my mother dropped and it sticking in my wrist. I remember my mother trying to pull it out (only the thread was visible) and how I sensed her panic.

I remember standing on a stool and it tipping over.  The leg hit me in the stomach and knocked the breath out of me.  My grandfather said, "I told you not to do that."

In short, a lot of the things I remember about being a very small kid aren't the great birthday parties that my mother planned for days or the raft of toys under the Christmas tree.

I do remember a lot of freedom, especially when we were at my grandparents' house at the beach.  We could walk just about anywhere, even as young children. I remember my grandfather rocking me and singing "Red River Valley." I remember my aunt listening to records. I remember looking up to my older cousins. I remember watching the peacock's tail turn colors. But I had to pull those out of my memory, and the others came easily.

I'm not a psychiatrist, so I don't know if we tend to remember the negative and shelve the positive. How about you?  How do your good memories tally up against the bad ones?


Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D. said...

What we remember falls on a spectrum. Some of us remember a little, others a lot. Extreme gaps in memory might signal trauma but not necessarily. The tone of a memory definitely reflects mood - this has been demonstrated experimentally. And of course the older we get, the more ancient history drops out.

mamie said...

Is that true about getting older? Because my experience with the elderly is that the distant memory remains fairly strong while new memories disappear quickly.

And could you elaborate about the the tone of a memory reflecting mood? Or share an article? I'd like to know more.

As always, thanks for stopping by the blog.