The Difficulty with Memory

Saturday 25th February

Having read avidly and extensively since a child I think that we humans are mostly made of the same stuff; our thoughts and reminisces, the way we behave in situations and the trouble we have with memory.  In many ways memory is a spectacular and quite amazing thing, the very fact that we not only recognize faces, even from forty or fifty years ago in my case, though who knows whether at eighty that will stretch to a sixty year span, or an old photograph unseen for years, or films we saw as a young person, but also the smaller things.  The way memory works is quite extraordinary, sometimes you just hear a snatch of notes and you know exactly what the piece of music is, though you haven’t heard that particular one in years, or suddenly when you least expect it a conversation comes back at you from out of nowhere at all, and you are there, right there again with all of the hot emotions you may have felt at the time.

Just as surprising though are the things we manage to forget, or have difficulty actually remembering.  Sometimes you really want to recall something and it isn’t there at all.  Blanked out maybe, or erased, or just shifted to another less accessible part of your brain, and try as you might it remains stubbornly unremembered, though the very fact that you can remember something about it, just not the detail means it hasn’t gone completely.  And on those TV detective things where they are investigating something that happened many years ago, and the suspect seems to have almost perfect recall of times, even remembering glancing at their watch before opening the door to the gunman.  Well really, would you remember those tiny details; I know I have difficulty remembering how I filled my day yesterday, let alone on a specific day years ago.

And then there are those memories that you do remember, but you aren’t quite sure if you remember remembering them or actually remember the thing itself.  My earliest memory was of a motorcycle skidding across a wet road, the headlight’s beam splaying across the road and lighting up some memorial gates to a park.  I replay this time and again, and both of my parents are with me, but sometimes it is a single rider, and sometimes there is someone on the pillion.  Am I remembering my memories of recalling this event time and time again, or the thing itself.  And of course my mother cannot remember it at all.