The bigger the memory, the bigger the hole. Or, maybe it’s the better the memory, the bigger the hole. That’s not really the issue. It’s more of a “which hole represents what” kinda thing. I’ve no problem with stuff I can remember, my problem is with the stuff I can’t remember. Double-check the photo. See all the undocumented holes? Those are the ones I’m talkin’ about.
And, if the Swiss cheese analogy is just too… well… cheesy, consider an alternative. My memory map probably looks more like the Great Plains in the 1600s, shortly after a half zillion bison stormed through. Sorta flat. And pretty thoroughly mulched. Probably smelly, too. So how is one supposed to scrape up enough memories there to build a memoir? How do we remember what we’ve forgotten?
Conundrum. How does one get anywhere from nowhere? I posed this question to one of my classes and asked them to come up with a list of things someone might have forgotten. Each student contributed five, and I merged their efforts into one big list.
There were surprisingly few duplicates, probably ’cause I listed most of the easy ones in my examples. (Rank has its privileges, right?) Anyway, my loyal followers came up with some gems, and I present their suggestions to the world of memory-challenged memoir writers. I hope the items on the list will spark some recollections of things you quit thinking about long ago.
And, if this list causes you to think of still other items I can include next time around, won’t you please take the time to note them in a comment? I welcome any and all input.
Herewith, then, an incomplete and hopefully soon-to-be expanded list of things a memoir writer might’ve forgotten about (in no particular order). Do you remember:
- The first time you kissed someone you weren’t related to?
- Being lost somewhere, at any age?
- The day your sister or brother was born?
- What really went on at Girl (or Boy) Scout camp?
- Your first visit to an outhouse?
- The first meal you cooked for your spouse?
- The first time a world event shook your life?
- Preparing for your first day of school?
- Stupid graduation stunts?
- The first time you tasted popcorn?
- Visiting a deserted house, or one that should have been?
- The first time you tasted beer?
- Something you did that you never, ever wanted your parents to hear about?
- What you hated the most about your first job?
- The first time you went somewhere you weren’t supposed to go?
- The first time you hurt yourself doing something stupid?
- Moving to a new home?
- The person you never dated, but always wanted to?
- The first movie star or musician you fell in love with?
- Learning to drive?
- Breaking the rabbit ears on the TV when you tried to adjust them?
- Sneaking into a drive-in movie in the trunk of someone’s car?
- Discovering that the “show” you bought tickets for wasn’t quite what you thought it would be?
- When you borrowed something without permission, and it got damaged?
- The first time you rode a horse?
- The time you wanted desperately to impress someone, and made a fool of yourself?
- Seeing the ocean for the first time?
- The first time someone you loved or respected deeply disappointed you?
- Your first trip to the dentist?
- Learning to read?
- Something that scared you when you went to the circus?
- The first time you discovered that something you firmly believed in simply wasn’t true?
- The “not so proper” things that went on after closing at the “ever so proper” place where you worked?
- The last thing you loaned to someone that was never returned?
- The person you’d most like to apologize to?
That’s probably enough for this go-round, but it’s an interesting exercise. If you can’t find some long-lost memories in this list, you’re just not trying hard enough!