Sunday 10th April
I always say that my first memory is of a motorcycle accident outside the Memorial Gates of Stowmarket recreation ground, commonly known as the rec. And I think that it must be, but if I really think hard I am not sure. What I remember, what I always remember is an accident, a motorcycle accident. Though I don’t remember the actual accident, just the headlight’s beam lighting up the names of the fallen, the rain, the shattered glass, and sometimes a rider holding their head. I mentioned this to my mother once and she can remember nothing, though I must surely have been with her. So what am I remembering, I suspect that the bike merely skidded on the wet surface and nobody was really hurt and what I am remembering is the memory of me remembering time and again and telling myself that this was my first memory.
Memory is such a faltering and feeble thing, and we layer it with other occasions, other memories get jumbled up with it, our emotional response to the remembered memory becomes part of the memory itself and we are never sure if what we are remembering is the true memory or the repeated and often distorted memory of the act of remembering. And dreams are often like that, sometimes so vivid and clear and upon waking they dissipate and dissolve and all you are left with is a hazy memory that you had a bad dream and something about….but you cannot quite recollect the details at all. And my first memory, the motorbike accident is like that; maybe it was just a dream I had as a child. But I cling to it, because I want to remember my first memory – and all the others too before I get too old and my memories fade altogether. That is one of the reasons I write, to record things before I forget them. Written down they may not resemble the actual truth any more than my memories, but they are an anchor to stop my mind from wandering too far from shore.
And the weird thing is that each time I try to remember this specific first memory it gets harder to pin down, as if the very synapses are snapping from overuse. So maybe I invent it, and re-invent it and cannot even remember the times I have tried to remember it. It has become almost an icon, and I trot it out whenever I am asked for my first memory – but whether it ever happened I begin to question. And then I begin to wonder if any memories can really be trusted. And the act of writing it down with whatever distortions time has levied on it adds another layer on top of the memory, and then I think am I only remembering this recorded version and not the real thing. Which is one of the reasons I like to listen to old records, because there time stand still and I don’t need the memory of the songs, they are there, pristine and glistening and undistorted by my memory of them. I simply need the prompt and I am word-perfect singing the words along with the artist, memory regained and perfect again.