Lately I’ve been curious about my memories. Or rather, the lack thereof. I listen to others tell stories about their childhood and I wonder why I can’t seem to be able to tell stories of my own. I know I’m not a storyteller by nature, but it takes quite a bit of effort to recall simple things like birthdays and school days.
I realized that the memories that do come easily to mind, are those attached to the pictures in my photo albums. But am I remembering the picture, or the actual event?
Every picture tells a story.
— Rod Stewart and Ron Wood
I can look at any picture in my albums and remember the people in the pictures (although probably not all the names) and what is happening in the photo. Sometimes I can even bring back the same feelings and emotions I felt then. Most of the time of course these are happy memories and events, since it’s rare that we brought the camera out for sad occasions.
When asked what is the first thing you would save in a house fire, after your family and pets, don’t most people answer “pictures?” Is that because our memories would be lost without these pictures? After you’ve seen the same pictures hundreds of times do the memories then “stick” in your head or do you need the constant reinforcement the pictures offer? What did people do before the camera was invented? Did they rely on paintings, drawings, and caveman etchings?
Is there something more to the fact that my memories don’t come into focus without pictures to illustrate them? Is the reason I can’t tell my children scores of stories about things they did when they were little because I was so anxious to get through the day that I didn’t put too much time into committing little anecdotes to memory? It sounds too melodramatic to be true. It wasn’t that bad, after all. Would my kids say they have happy memories? I think for the most part they would.
The more I think about it the more I think that it’s just that my brain needs visual cues to bring up the past. It’s a little on the lazy side. Some people claim to have a “photographic memory.” I suppose that means that they don’t need an actual camera to take the picture as their brain is doing that job on its own. I guess I’m just not blessed that way and that’s why ever since I got my first camera on my thirteenth birthday, I’ve been taking snapshots and capturing those memories on film (and memory cards).
A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.
— Eudora Welty