Speak, Memory. No? Oh…okay then. Darn.

I was talking to Will online today about getting older, and I mentioned that I don’t really have very vivid or detailed memories of my life before I was about 14.

Weirdly, this problem used to be much, much worse than it was. I remember getting back to America at the start of 10th grade (August of 2001 or so) and thinking, “Wow, I have no idea what I did during 7th and 8th grade” (well, except play EverQuest). And that was only two years ago, so it was mildly disturbing at the time (though I shrugged it off with teenage aplomb).

As I’ve gotten older, certain memories of those earlier years have become more vivid and clear. They’re pretty prosaic things that I don’t really care to pretty up and make interesting for you, so I won’t get more specific. But I remember not being able to remember things like this as early as a few years ago.

And I’m somewhat distrustful of this process. I feel like this long-after-the-fact vividness might be the result of me forgetting alot of ancillary things that happened back then (and thus rendering a few events more memorable, like pyramids in a formless desert). And alot of it might just be the result of me making things up. For instance, I have a strong suspicion that alot of what I remember might actually be dreams. I mean, sometimes I will go through an entire day believing that what I dreamed last night actually happened. I bet sometimes I never realize that it didn’t happen, and the dream-memory just gets permanently misfiled into my real, actual, record-of-things-that-happened memory.

Anyway, so the upshot of this is that I am always surprised by childhood memoirs like “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” or “Black Boy”. How in the world can these people convey all this detail about their childhoods? Do they actually remember all this or are they just making it up, cobbling it together from dreams, stories from their families, and a few faded recollections?

I’m not sure if I’m weird in not having many childhood recollections. Any help from the twelve people who read this blog would be appreciated. How far back, and in how much detail, do your memories go?

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  1. howdoyoulivewithyourself

    I imagine my brain to be a serious of strange connections, so that when I ask it an enormous question like, “What can I remember from before the age of 12?” it freaks out. But sometimes an event, face, photo, smell, etc. will trigger a memory, which will, in turn, trigger others.

    Things I don’t have trouble remembering, oddly, are times when I was intensely embarrassed or ashamed. I remember times of tragedy, too, which might explain why the childhood memoirs you mentioned above might contain more truth than the average memoir – emphasis on “might.”

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