I’ve been thinking recently about how we choose which memories to remember. Why we remember what we do, what we don’t forget and how these choices lead us to create the memoirs we write. I’m sure it’s not a conscious choice, so maybe choice is the wrong word. After all, plenty of us remember things that we would like to forget. But we certainly, at least in the stories we tell, prefer to recall the stories that fit with the identity we portray to the world.
I know this because my authors sometimes repeat certain stories to me. Occasionally they do this because they have forgotten they have already told me and I let them speak in hopes that a previously forgotten nugget of detail will be unearthed. It often is. But more often, they tell me the same story several times because they relish telling it. Happy or sad, the story says something about them that they want me, and therefore their reading audience to know. Their memories are their identity.
I have also been thinking how the stuff we keep reflects these memories and therefore our identities. This I have been pondering because I am helping a truly precious friend downsize and declutter ahead of moving into residential care. How do we choose to keep what is needed and what can we not bear to part with because it is loved? My friend must relinquish what he doesn’t have room for. In doing so, does he lose a little of himself? It’s easy to deride materialism but there is a difference between a wardrobe full of shoes and a drawer full of spare fuses we have kept because they might come in handy and being practical and useful is who we are.
Material things are also on my mind because my beloved uncle has died and my mother and I have had to close up his home this past week. My uncle Jimbo encouraged me to become a writer and I will possibly blog about him another time, after the funeral – since I am in the midst of writing the tribute. But looking at his things, some everyday items, some precious artefacts he cherished because he was a sentimental and sensitive man who loved the past, has made me think about how our stuff holds our memories and how our memories hold our identity.
A best friend of mine had an accident on Saturday and was concussed. She remembers nothing of what happened and when the paramedic asked her if she knew where she was, she cried because she didn’t know and feared she had a head injury and had lost her memory. The thought made my blood run cold. Who would my friend be to herself without her memory? Could we rebuild her with stories and by showing her her stuff? Luckily she is okay. But all these things together have given me a great deal to think about, to be sad about and to be grateful for.
It’s only five weeks until Christmas and although I wanted to write a more upbeat blog to remind people about the Your Memoir gift voucher, these are the things that are on my mind as I live and go about my work. So, if the memories of your parents or grandparents are too precious to lose, contact me about giving a Your Memoir gift voucher this Christmas. When those dear to you are gone and you are left with their stuff, a book about their lives will certainly be a possession you will want to keep forever.