By Diane Hyzy
What is a memory? How is it really made and are there different paths to take when making and retrieving a memory?
Do we select certain elements of a memory? If you asked any parent of a grown adult what his or her child’s infant months were like, he or she would likely fill the conversation with tales of sweet kisses and special smiles. No mention of late-night teething or uncontrollable crying.
Why is that? Isn’t it true that we all tend to put the positive aspects of an event to the front of the line of a memory? I believe that if the negative memories surpassed the beautiful ones, there would be far more only children on the planet.
Can we really have a memory of something that we don’t remember? Our parents fill us with stories of our childhood that we were simply too young to remember, but decades of these accounts make us feel that we actually do. Seeing photographs of an event only cements this feeling even more.
My twin sister and I had our picture taken when we were about 3 years old – one facing forward and one facing backward. Apparently, this was so that we could show off our fancy pink curlers before bed.
The Jackman family lore was that my father took one picture and when we turned around for picture number two, he had run out of film.
This apparently didn’t go over well with me, because I got the short end of the deal.
Although I was clearly too young to remember this incident, I feel as though I have a memory of it.
Can selecting a positive memory in favor of a painful one protect us? For anyone who has lost a loved one, this is absolutely true. My father fought a battle with cancer for three years before he passed away. As much as it was painful in the end, I have made a conscious choice to focus on the beautiful father-daughter memories that we made for 50 years rather than the last few days that he had.
Is it possible to step into a memory as an adult? Recently, my sisters, mother and I took a trip to Maine to celebrate Mom’s special birthday.
My parents’ very dear friends have a home in North Waterford and Mom and Dad would go visit them every August. My folks were blessed to have been able to travel throughout the United States and abroad, but nothing could compare with their love of Maine.
For years, I had seen pictures and heard a plethora of stories of their relaxing vacation with their special friends. My father often spoke of his love of sitting on the dock, sunset approaching, and listening to the loons on the lake.
Dad loved a good project and his buddy was always happy to have a set of helping hands to work around the cottage.
My mother would speak fondly of working alongside her friend in the kitchen, preparing the fixings for a perfect lobster dinner.
Being there for my first time, I felt as though I was stepping into their memories. It was special to be with my mother and to see her so happy.
One thing that I didn’t expect was that I actually felt my father’s presence and believed he was with me, smiling as I got a chance to be in his special place.
So as I gazed up into the most beautiful, starry night I’ve ever seen, I sent up a thank you to Dad for painting such a beautiful picture with his memories of Maine.