I’ve been asked if sorting through the mess of belongings, especially photos, my parent’s left behind triggered any memories for me. The answer is yes… and no.
My long term memory is not good. In fact, there are huge chunks of my childhood, teenage years and even young adulthood which I can’t remember. It doesn’t stop there; I find it difficult to remember my children as babies. Most of their childhood is a blank for me. It frustrates me when my friends can remember significant moments of my life which totally elude me.
Sorting through the many, many photographs my parents kept has been a challenge. Most of them have no names, description or date recorded. Many of them were taken on my parent’s drive across USA to the mid-west, or on one or the other of their holidays. They were all taken before I was born so, not only did they not trigger memories for me, they also meant nothing to me. I threw them all out.
Then there were photos which looked like family groups, or perhaps they were close friends. Again, with no idea of who, where or when, I couldn’t tell. I’ve kept those I think might be family and the others were thrown out.
I found so many photos of my parent’s pets. Over the years they had numerous dogs, not quite as many cats and a few birds. I do remember a few of them, but to be honest it is difficult for me to remember them individually, they all tend to meld into one. I was left with photos of dogs in every state you can imagine. There were dogs playing, lying in the garden, eating, sleeping, sitting, standing, running, leaping, eating bones, under trees, next to cars, at doorways, on beaches, on roads, in parks, on beds and on chairs. The cat photos were mostly of them sleeping. I filled two green garbage bags with photos of animals.
I spent a long time looking through the photos my parents kept of me. Most of them were black and white. There I was as a baby, wrapped up and in someone’s arms – my mother’s, my father’s, my grandmother’s, my grandfather’s, their friends’ – a bit like the game “pass the parcel”. There I was again in prams and cots and high chairs, on a rug, in a bath. And more photos of me growing up; kindergarten photos, school photos, birthday parties, dressing up occasions, Christmases and holiday snaps at the beach or a lake or somewhere with snow.
It was a surreal feeling looking through the photos. I could recognise myself and my parents and grandparents, so I understood I had been in all these places, but I just don’t remember any of them. It was as if I was watching a black and white slide show about a seemingly happy family. I was in the slides but I didn’t feel a part of them.
I am trying to get my memories back. I’ve been told it can be done. Perhaps it will be a story for another book.