Memories are currency in more ways than one. What are we without memory? And what will happen to the important memories of our lives and the lives of those around us, if we don’t write them down?
On a scrap of paper I recently came across on my cluttered desk, I’d written down a thought about memory I’d picked up somewhere, though I neglected to make note of where. I guess I thought I’d remember who said it—but can’t, so I’ll just say it, anyway. It went something like this: Memory was all I had, the only currency, the only proof that I was alive. I can see why I jotted it down—food for thought, certainly.
It got me thinking about some of the elements involved in memory creation. Feelings are imprinted to memory. Often, when a memory is recalled, the exact feelings we felt at the time the memory etched a pathway in our brains is felt front and center.
Our personal feelings about an incident or individual, then, are integral parts of each memory. Some memories fade and so do some feelings, others don’t. Feelings change over time, too. So does that mean that the particular memory changes? Yes, I think it often does, especially when we give it thought in terms of whom we are today—removed from the person or happening.
Of course there are certain memories that we live over and over again in our minds that are as potent today as they were many years ago. I know, I can literally smell my mother’s freshly baked “dream bars” and relive the joy I felt twenty-five years ago when I dove straight into the still-hot pan of goodies and now, through memory, into her kitchen. I can also smell my high-school math teacher’s ghastly breath and the revulsion I felt when he habitually leaned over my shoulder while I sat at my desk solving challenging written math problems one entire semester.
It’s easy for me to see why the memory of Mom’s baking has stayed sharp in my mind, and I relish it. Although it’s strange how certain memories, as in my math teacher’s stinky breath, have stayed with me, when, on first glance, that memory would seem rather unimportant. But was it? This memory was puzzling to me, so I decided to get to the bottom of it. Upon conscious reflection through writing, I discovered that my revulsion for him had more to do with his lecherous way of leaning his body into mine then did his breath, and that was why it had stayed fresh in my mind all these years. I’m glad I looked into that memory and found out why it followed me around for years—now I can let that ugly memory go.
From kitchens to classrooms, everything in between, and beyond, memories are the currency we use to bring moments in time and people back to life for better or for worse. Memories are also what we use as interpersonal exchange, even barter, but that’s another subject or another time.
There are so many memories worth preserving for a time when we won’t be around any longer. Write them down. Write bio-vignettes. Write memoir now.