Stories that Matter

Remember When?

How many conversations start with that question? Probably more than we remember. Yet it’s an immediate pull back into the past, back to an event or shared memory that somehow binds people together, often whether they like it or not.

The biggest events in history have turned strangers into friends.

V-Day. The assassination of JFK. Martin Luther King. 911. If you lived through any of those world-changers, you can probably remember the exact moment you heard the news, where you were, what you were doing, who you were with.

Memory.

It is both a blessing and a curse. Because some memories are hard. Some memories still bring shame, fear, self-loathing – those are often the ones that remain visceral and vibrant, as though they just occurred, while so many others, all those good times, the laughter, the friendships, well, we have to work a little harder to see those clearly, don’t we?

We keep track of days gone by in photo albums, on videos or in journals, where we write down everything we want to remember because it impacted us in some way.Β IMG_5969IMG_5970

Memories can be powerful, full of mystery and wonder, and I’m sure there’s some expert out there who could tell me all the science behind it – but I don’t care.

I choose to believe that God gave us memory so we can tell our stories.

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We are all story-tellers. Think about the multitude of word pictures passed down through the generations and your brain will start to spin. It makes me giddy actually. I love the fact that we can tap into those memories and bring them to life through the written word. Some of us like me, do this on a daily basis. We tell stories and other people turn them into books. Some authors write their own story through memoir, while others choose fiction. But in every work of fiction I believe you will find some of the author in her characters – whether consciously or unconsciously, she will have tapped intoΒ a bitΒ of her life and placed it into that novel.

Everybody has a story. Only the very brave will choose to tell their own.Β 

My earliest memory is a time when I was taken to a new nursery school or daycare. I must have been about two or three. I was upset about being there and I couldn’t stop crying. They put me in a high chair and called me a baby. And I remember my father storming through the doors, picking me up and carrying me out of there. And I never went back.

That memory stays with me today – truth be told, I’m probably a little partial to the knight in shining armor stories because of it. I know not every girl wants to be rescued. This girl, she’s good with it. πŸ™‚

As I explored the power of memory in my upcoming novel, The Things We Knew, I became fascinated by the idea of being shaped by the past. Everything we’ve lived through, all those good times and bad times and times so terrible we don’t let ourselves remember them . . . this is who we are. If we were able to tap into each and every memory we own, how many piles of papers would that be? And which would we choose to keep?

Want to talk memory today? What’s your earliest memory?

There’s a spot on the couch for you.

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20 Comments

  1. Melony Teague on April 4, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I was talking about earliest memories just last week, so I don’t have to think much about it. I remember playing underneath a dark wooden dining room table and the grown ups where trying to get me to come out. I wouldn’t, of course. πŸ˜‰ I was toddler at the time! It is a random memory that has no significance whatsoever…I can’t remember anything before that.

    • Cathy West on April 4, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Ha! There’s probably huge significance to it. πŸ™‚ You were asserting your independence, revolting against authority and being a pain in the tookus. πŸ™‚ Does any of that ring true to who you are today? πŸ˜‰ I’m sure you’re not a pain in the tookus to anyone though, you’re too nice for that. πŸ™‚

  2. Melony Teague on April 4, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I was talking about earliest memories just last week, so I don’t have to think much about it. I remember playing underneath a dark wooden dining room table and the grown ups where trying to get me to come out. I wouldn’t, of course. πŸ˜‰ I was toddler at the time! It is a random memory that has no significance whatsoever…I can’t remember anything before that.

  3. angels95 on April 4, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Memory is a strange thing for me – I don’t remember most of my childhood and wonder if some of the things I think I remember are just mental pictures because they have been told in the family so often, rather than actual remembrances. Also wondering if my lack of memory is because I experienced numerous incidences of trauma when I was young – including both a serious accident and very near asphyxiation when I was 2 or 3 years old. One of the first things I do remember was being homesick when I was in 1st grade – sneaking out of my classroom to look for my cousin who was in the 4th grade, being caught and sent back to my room.

    • Cathy West on April 4, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Oh wow, Bonnie, how interesting! Yeah, I think early trauma can definitely cause memory repression or loss of the event entirely. With Lynette in The Things We Knew, she can’t remember anything about her mother’s death. It was interesting to research what we actually go through and repress and what might trigger those memories later on in life. And I think times of extreme sadness and loneliness do stick in our brains for whatever reason. I have strong memories of being homesick at boarding school!

  4. angels95 on April 4, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Memory is a strange thing for me – I don’t remember most of my childhood and wonder if some of the things I think I remember are just mental pictures because they have been told in the family so often, rather than actual remembrances. Also wondering if my lack of memory is because I experienced numerous incidences of trauma when I was young – including both a serious accident and very near asphyxiation when I was 2 or 3 years old. One of the first things I do remember was being homesick when I was in 1st grade – sneaking out of my classroom to look for my cousin who was in the 4th grade, being caught and sent back to my room.

    • Cathy West on April 4, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Oh wow, Bonnie, how interesting! Yeah, I think early trauma can definitely cause memory repression or loss of the event entirely. With Lynette in The Things We Knew, she can’t remember anything about her mother’s death. It was interesting to research what we actually go through and repress and what might trigger those memories later on in life. And I think times of extreme sadness and loneliness do stick in our brains for whatever reason. I have strong memories of being homesick at boarding school!

  5. martyomenko on April 4, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    I have many early memories from when I was just about three. My mother had put me in a satiny outfit and I hated it. They were taking photos and I thought to myself, “I will scowl in the photos and then they will know that I hate this outfit.” However, it was not until I was older and I told my mother why I was upset in the photographs, that she realized it was because of the outfit. Three year old brains do not place a huge importance on communication with words, I suppose.

    • Cathy West on April 4, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      LOL! What a troublemaker you were, Martha! I do wonder why some memories like that are so vivid and others just really vague, and we only know they happened because of photos and what we were told.

  6. Stephanie on April 4, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    If I’m not mistaken, I remember lying in my buggy watching fish swim around in an aquarium. When I shared this with my mom, she told me they did have fish when I was a baby. So maybe …
    Another early memory … my brother, 12 years older than myself, teasing me, saying he was going to throw me out the window. Humorous now. Not so much then.
    Truth be told, most of my childhood memories aren’t the happiest. I didn’t have a terrible childhood. It makes me wonder why I don’t remember more of the good times. I do remember getting spoiled at Christmas and loving it. Not sure if that’s a “good” memory. πŸ™‚

  7. Stephanie on April 4, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    If I’m not mistaken, I remember lying in my buggy watching fish swim around in an aquarium. When I shared this with my mom, she told me they did have fish when I was a baby. So maybe …
    Another early memory … my brother, 12 years older than myself, teasing me, saying he was going to throw me out the window. Humorous now. Not so much then.
    Truth be told, most of my childhood memories aren’t the happiest. I didn’t have a terrible childhood. It makes me wonder why I don’t remember more of the good times. I do remember getting spoiled at Christmas and loving it. Not sure if that’s a “good” memory. πŸ™‚

    • Cathy West on April 4, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      I wonder if the brain somehow categorizes events into boxes like Horrible – No Good – Sad – Happy – Amazing – and we somehow have to retrieve our memories from them by actually trying to think of a particular time when we were very happy or very sad? I’m always surprised at the things I do remember from childhood. Especially when most days I can’t even remember what I had for lunch!! πŸ™‚

  8. Rebecca Maney on April 4, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I don’t have a lot of early memories. I was sick a lot when I was small and I have foggy images of hospitals and surgery . . . . not pleasant, really. But I have really fond memories of imaginative play of all kinds; both outdoors and inside. Playing office, school, store, pioneers/Indians . .. . that sort of thing.

  9. Rebecca Maney on April 4, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I don’t have a lot of early memories. I was sick a lot when I was small and I have foggy images of hospitals and surgery . . . . not pleasant, really. But I have really fond memories of imaginative play of all kinds; both outdoors and inside. Playing office, school, store, pioneers/Indians . .. . that sort of thing.

    • Cathy West on April 5, 2016 at 10:30 am

      I had to have 3 eye operations when I was little – I remember the hospital times quite vividly. Sometimes even a particular smell when I am in a hospital for whatever reason, will trigger those memories. Suffice to say hospitals are NOT my favorite places!!

  10. Sherri Bennett on April 5, 2016 at 1:26 am

    Memories…not so much into them. But, let’s see. My first memories are of when I was 4 in Nicaragua. My parents fighting, being abandoned, feeling like there was evil there, my little dog that got hit by a car – oh, and we had a monkey. πŸ™‚ That was a nice memory. He seemed to only like me and let me hold him – he would throw poop on everyone else, LOL. I blocked out a lot of my childhood for a long time until I got into some good counseling which helped a lot. I can actually think about things now without getting sick to my stomach but I still prefer not to go there. I could totally relate to Lynnette blocking out everything that happened.

    • Cathy West on April 5, 2016 at 10:33 am

      Sherri, so interesting! I would love to hear your whole story one day! I am glad you have worked through the painful times, even though they are not pleasant, they are all part of your journey and had a hand in shaping you into the wonderful person you are today!

  11. Sherri Bennett on April 5, 2016 at 1:26 am

    Memories…not so much into them. But, let’s see. My first memories are of when I was 4 in Nicaragua. My parents fighting, being abandoned, feeling like there was evil there, my little dog that got hit by a car – oh, and we had a monkey. πŸ™‚ That was a nice memory. He seemed to only like me and let me hold him – he would throw poop on everyone else, LOL. I blocked out a lot of my childhood for a long time until I got into some good counseling which helped a lot. I can actually think about things now without getting sick to my stomach but I still prefer not to go there. I could totally relate to Lynnette blocking out everything that happened.

    • Cathy West on April 5, 2016 at 10:33 am

      Sherri, so interesting! I would love to hear your whole story one day! I am glad you have worked through the painful times, even though they are not pleasant, they are all part of your journey and had a hand in shaping you into the wonderful person you are today!

  12. Melodie on April 15, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    My earliest memory is when I pulled out a bunch of dirty work gloves from a cabinet in the entry way in our farm house. I was still in diapers–but Mom had a tough time potty training me, so who knows how old I was!

    When I started blogging nearly two years ago, I chose to write about things I’ve always wanted to write down anyway, but never took the time to do so. This got me to write every day and get into a habit. I didn’t know what I was doing, but a friend figured it out before I did. I was writing about memories. And ironically, the name of the blog fit what I wrote about too, but that’s not even why I chose the name. Got had it all worked out to fit.

    Writing this way is therapeutic too. So I love memories!

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