Memoir Worthy Memories

by Ginger on July 9, 2012

in Becoming Myself

I read memoirs, or listen to people telling stories and I always have the same thought:

How on earth do you people remember all this stuff?

No, seriously. Even before having a kid seemed to sap all my mental faculties, I NEVER remembered my memories in such detail, if at all. I have vague, hazy, it-sorta-felt-like-this images and thoughts. How do other people do it?

Is it a writer thing, a bit of discipline and work that allows you to call this stuff back to mind? Or is that some people just remember more vividly than others?

I was thinking about this the other day after I finished reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (which I loved, as a total aside. Laughing so hard I was crying while trying not to wake up my husband sleeping next to me kind of love), because I started thinking that it would be nice–even just for myself–to write down some of my memories of growing up before I totally lose them. But then as I thought about it more, I realized that it’s not that easy to write, because everything I recall is buried under a fog of time. There are very few bright vivid pictures in my mind, very few stories that have details and dialogue and…firm edges and shapes.

Is that just me?

My great grandmother was a master story teller. I remember sitting at my mom’s dining room table with her & N.C. while she told story after story after story of her life, many of the stories pre-1930’s (and a good handful pre-1920’s!). She remembered details that were astounding. ASTOUNDING. She was in her 90’s and she had better recall than I did at 26. At one point, I think N.C. said something to me about how amazed he was at how much and how well she remembered. It blew my mind as well.

Maybe it’s that I don’t have that same kind of storyteller gene. Oh, I obviously can prattle on about whatever’s knocking around in my head on any given day, but I don’t have that gift of drawing someone into a time and place that existed before. My great-grandmother had it, that’s for sure. But me? I think I’m missing something here.

But I am thinking about trying. Again, maybe only for me, or for me to share with Jackson when he’s older and wants to know about when I was a little girl. But I’d like to see if I can make those memories take shape, even if they are just the simple stories of a typical kid growing up in the 80’s & 90’s. It’s not like I’m trying to write a memoir, but I’d like to try and write my memories.

What about you? Do you find it easy to recall details and specifics of your memories, to tell them as stories? Or are you like me, and they’re more fuzzy and feeling-y than firm pictures?

Jennifer July 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Dana, The Kitchen Witch, does a great job of relating memories from her childhood. She is a brilliant writer. If you like that type of writing you should check her out. She also has really great recipes.

I can’t remember things from my childhood with that level of detail either. After reading stories from people that do, I wish I could.

Sorta Southern Single Mom July 10, 2012 at 4:29 am

I’m better at telling stories when my sister is around. People have said they love to sit around the table with us and get us going because she’s really dry and witty and I’m animated and we play well off of each other. The nice thing about my blog is that it helps me tell some of them when I’m remembering them. I think at this point I could write a book about my mother!

Shell Flower July 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm

One of my older sisters never remembers anything I remember and she says she literally doesn’t remember anything before she was in her late teens. Sometimes I think I remember a lot more of my childhood because I am a twin so I’ve always had someone around who remembers most of the things I do. I’ve heard that when you get old, you live in your memories a lot more. That might be a Rudolf Steiner thing, I’m not sure, but it seems to be true.

Jamie July 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm

I’ve never been much of a story teller. I have a hard time remembering a lot of childhood like memories. I can remember the feelings, and the fond memories, and some of the bad memories.

I do recall the Bloggess saying she had to ask her sister to get the full stories straight and some others to help with the story telling =)

but yes, I would like to start writing some fond stories and memories down to bring to a book one day, even if the book is just for my family and friends.

KT July 11, 2012 at 11:56 am

I’m awful at remembering childhood memories. I have no idea how people that write memoirs do it. I will say that ever since I started a blog my memory has gotten better because writing things down helps….along with being able to go back and read old entries!!

Classic NYer July 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Maybe it’s that I don’t have that same kind of storyteller gene. Oh, I obviously can prattle on about whatever’s knocking around in my head on any given day, but I don’t have that gift of drawing someone into a time and place that existed before. My great-grandmother had it, that’s for sure. But me? I think I’m missing something here.

Untrue! Untrue! Take it back, you LIAR!!!!

Okay, I’m sorry for calling you a liar. But the reason I like your blog is because you paint such amazingly vivid pictures that draw me in to a completely different life and makes me feel like I’m there even though clearly I’m not. Don’t be so hard on yourself, hun.

For what it’s worth, I’m not great at remembering childhood memories either… mostly because I make it a point not to bother with them.

Hope July 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Most of the stories that I really remember are because I’ve told them so many times that they’e become burned into my brain. The retelling becomes part of the memory.

Sometimes I read old posts on my blog and think, “Wow, I never would have remembered that happening.” I guess I should take that as a reason to write more. But I always assume that I won’t forget.

jess @ wrangling chaos July 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Ive been writing lately. Privately non blog writing, and I’m finding that my memories are disjointed. Out of order. So on rewrites, I’m piecing my random memories together like a puzzle. Its frustrating.

Also…I miss my pre kid brain

Sheila August 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Oh, I have a very vivid memory. I remember events from my childhood like it was yesterday. Of course dates and things are always muddled, but I can clearly remember what things looked like and how I felt. When I can’t remember things, I check my journals — I have usually journaled at least occasionally, and it helps me remember what life was like at that time. That brings back other memories. I could write my autobiography … only it would be like watching paint dry, I suppose, for anyone else to read it.

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