The memory makers + the memory takers

memory makers and memory takers

Hanging out with one of my best friends in the whole entire world last weekend made me realise something.

I have a terrible memory.

My friend recalls details about my past I have no recollection of. She remembers the details of my 20th birthday – who stayed where and what we did. My memory of the day is sparse.

She remembers every little aspect of our trip to India together. Of when we first met. Of studying together.

I am so grateful to have a friend who also doubles as a memory bank, and only wish I had met her when I was five. Or earlier, preferably.

As I sort through the debris of my memory, there are icons that stand out.

From my childhood, it’s my special imagination olive tree, where I spent days cooped up in its branches. I remember the barren paddocks. The kangaroos on dusk. I remember being followed by our old German Shepard, Sammy, as we walked through the scrub.

Through my adult years, the particularly traumatic, or the particularly emotional moments are the memorable ones. Any occasions coupled with alcohol are vague wisps of something reminiscent of memory.

Memories are so important, aren’t they? Aren’t they – us? We are but a sum of our memories.

I think about this a lot in relation to my kids. What memories are we making for them? Each little day, piled on another day. Those moments, cutting out paper on the kitchen floor, or swinging in the hammock, or playing in the sand…this collection of moments in time. Which ones will stick? Hopefully the good ones?

As I take my phone out to snap a particularly important moment – a lost tooth – for instance, I think about this process of memory keeping. If I take a photo on my phone, am I purchasing insurance for my memory of that moment – or my child’s memory?

When I need to remember something in particular, I write it down. Even if I never read the note again, the act of writing helps commit the memory. Is it the same with taking photos?

Maybe. Maybe not. There are a million photos stacked on my hard drive, and in books, and on my computer. My husband thinks it’s ludicrous. I will never ever get to look at all those photos surely. But I haven’t the heart to delete them. I have to keep them. This bank of memories. It’s much more reliable than my own sieve.

I wonder sometimes whether the act of taking the photo itself diminishes my ability to simply remember the moment.

When we travelled when Elka was about two, I was walking back down the mountain, and she was running towards me. The joy on her face, and the childish enthusiasm of her run made me want to snap a picture. I did. And she immediately turned on her heel, and ran away from me. It was like popping a bubble. The moment evaporated with the click of my camera.

Lately, I find my memory’s worse than usual. And the reason why is obvious. There is so so much to remember.

I don’t mean commitments, or appointments etc. I remember those things quite easily.

I am busy, yes, with preparing for the launch of my book, and the other things on my plate. But it’s more than that.

We are flooded constantly with potential stimulus for memory. Each time I scroll through social media, the list of things I could potentially remember exponentially grows. And grows.

Trawling social media feels a little like using a metal detector on the beach. We look and look, and wait for something to stick. And at last the beep goes off, and that particularly cute image of a cat wearing glasses glues.

And the minefield of visual information is competing with the actual stuff in my life I should be remembering.

Like that wonderfully cute and hilarious thing Rosie said the other day. What was it again, that made us crack up so much? I have no idea. I swear to myself I need to write those comments and quotes down when they happen – not later, because later they are definitely forgotten.

I wonder what all these images, and all this information will do to our collective future memory. Will it be sharper, as we expose ourselves to more? Or will it diminish, as we rely more and more on technologies to remember things for us? {Phone numbers. Calendar dates. Passwords…} Maybe there’s just not enough space in our tiny human brains to handle the vast amount of material coming our way.

So, this week, I am conscious about where I place my attention. I am going to aim to place it carefully on things that matter. Precious moments with my children. A beautiful children’s book. I am going to gaze into that moment, and let it gel. Then, when it has settled, I’ll break my gaze and carry on.

And I really should remember to write that stuff down. And take a photo.

How’s your memory? And how do you make it better?

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