M is for Memory

‘Memory: 1. the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. / 2. something remembered from the past.’

I have a frightful memory. I forget to do things, I forget to say things, I forget to write things – I forget to do the simplest things that most people will do with graceful ease. More often than not I’ll be on my computer, open a new tab on Chrome, and promptly forget the reason I opened the tab in the first place. I’ll pick up my phone to search for something, then just stand there with a lost look on my face as I, yet again, forget the very thing that I wanted to find out on Google. They do come to me sooner or later, but more often later than sooner. I’m not good with names, I’m appalling with birthdays, and if you want me to tell you some sort of obsolete detail you told me several months ago I’m afraid that I’m just going to have to force a smile and tell you that I do not have the faintest idea (to be honest I probably won’t care about the aforementioned detail).

But these are recent things. These are things that I tell myself that I can lose. These small details, I can go over them over and over and over again until they become embedded in my mind, or, sometimes, fade away into something invisible. These I can live without. They’re not too important.

I’m more concerned with things that I would like to cherish, but things that I feel are slipping away from my fingertips. I remember:

I remember the hedgehog that crawled into our garden on our birthday party. I remember watching The Incredibles in the cinema on Christmas Eve. I remember reading my first Harry Potter book; I didn’t really understand everything but I still enjoyed myself. I remember trying to fly – I would get an umbrella, open it, stand on the sofa, close my eyes and take a step out and – fall –. I like remembering those things because they are from a time that I cannot go back to. I can re-remember names and birthdays and places, but I cannot read the Harry Potter series for the first time. I can’t go back to being that small child who thought that she could fly with an umbrella. I can’t go back to feeling, watching, listening to things with the same enthusiasm.

About a week ago, I decided to visit the place that I had grown up in. It was something that I had been wanting to do since I came back to this country, but I wasn’t too sure about it at the same time. I didn’t know if I would have the time. I didn’t really know how I would react to the place as well. Nothing would have changed, but then so much would have changed as well. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see that. After a few weeks, I decided that it would be better to go and see what it was like. It wasn’t as if I was going to lose anything.

And so I went. And then I came back to Durham. To the present.

My only comment to my parents about the trip back was this: everything looked so small. The primary school I went to. The house that I used to live in. The library that I remember going to often. Everything was still the way it was, but it still managed to look so much smaller. After I told my dad that, he told me two things:

1. You should remember that you have grown quite a lot.

2. This is why people sometimes just want to keep memories as memories.

Both of those things are quite valid. I have grown. A lot. More than I realise. Possibly in many different directions. But in my head, my memories remained the same. While I was growing and learning and knowing more about the world, the memories that I harboured remained stagnant. They turned black and white. They became bigger than life. They, most probably, became better than what they actually were. All because they were restricted to my mind, to my thoughts, to my own daydreams. They became part of an idealised childhood that I built for myself, a memory that I could escape to whenever I felt angry, whenever I felt lonely, whenever I needed encouragement to face the present that I thought I did not deserve.

I don’t think that my memories got too distorted. There are studies that say that if you think about certain memories too often, they get distorted and that you end up with a different recollection every time you think about the same thing. That may be true, but in this case it wasn’t the memory itself that was the problem. It was more of the fact that I forgot to accept the fact that I was a different person.

I thought I’d get more out of walking down memory lane. An epiphany? A more concrete reminder of the good old days? A wisp of nostalgia that would bring tears and a smile to my face? Maybe I was asking for too much. I had gone through this so many times in my head that I ended up with a romanticised version of it, much like the memories that had grown out of proportion. As much as I enjoyed the trip, it only made me realise how much I have changed. I’m not sure if I wanted to know that.

There’ll be more trips like this in the future, I assume. I guess I’ll just have to get used to this feeling.

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