A while back, I wrote about visiting my grandparents as a child in my post, "Sundays With Dad." I vividly remember getting carsick on the mountains we crossed during the drive every third Sunday. And I remember having to sit in the middle in the back seat of the car all the time. That's what I remember. I think. My middle sister, however, remembers it differently. She recalls volunteering to sit in the middle on the way to Grandmother's, to get it over with and have the window seat on the way home. When I asked my oldest sister about it, she couldn't remember exactly but said the volunteering thing sounded like something Mom would have suggested. Which brings me to the point of this post: which one of us is right? What's the truth of the past here? Am I remembering right?? Does anybody remember it right??
Memory can be a tricky thing. Everyone knows that several witnesses can see the same incident at the same time and yet recount different and sometimes conflicting accounts of what took place. Some of that can be chalked up to different perspectives, I suppose, but what, exactly, is the truth? Can we ever find out? Just how reliable is memory, anyway?
Several years ago I wrote an account of my parents and aunts and their experiences during World War II. I encountered this same problem with memory: siblings remembering the same incidents differently. I also found that their memories didn't always agree with historical records of events either. Of course, more than 60 years had passed, which could cloud one's memories a bit. But I'm thinking that a lot of the time, we remember things the way we want to remember them instead of how they really were. For example, over lunch at school, we teachers often recall how different school was for us as students years ago, in contrast to what we see now. Our memories are mostly of the "things weren't this bad when I was in school" kind. If our teachers from 30 or 40 years ago were part of our discussions, though, how would they remember those days? I'm thinking their memories wouldn't agree with ours.
So, what happens when our memories don't agree? Sometimes it causes laughter and good times, other times heated discussions and hard feelings. Sharing memories, however, brings us together in a way nothing else can. Memories, be they bitter or sweet, are important just because we have them. They help make us human. And most of the time, hopefully, they make life a little sweeter.