As I plod through this plotting process I set up for myself I’ve been finding odd bits of notes from the various versions of the book over the years. I realized that a big chunk of something important in the book deals with memories and how much we can remember from a young age. Basically I have to decide how old my MC is when a certain thing happens so I can use the memories. For years I’ve had him at 4 but now I wonder if that is too young? He is 16 then 17 in the book. I want him to remember some things over time but not a lot. And I don’t want him to have the conversational capability that an older child would have.
So the question is – how far back can you remember? How old or how young are your memories?
I think it depends on the person. I remember quite a bit from age 4. We moved to a new state and I remember a lot about that. Also about playing with my little brother. My boyfriend, on the other hand, has very few memories from before age 8-9 or so, and even then it is tough for him to pin down when something happened.
Intersting, and yes of course each of us is different. My husband’s memory of his childhood is much better than mine (of course mine is farther away than his so that might have something to do with it) LOL.
I have a couple of memories that are from before I was two, and I know they’re memories, not stories I’ve heard and assimilated, because I remember things like the texture of the chair I hid behind when my dad came home to tell me I had a baby brother. But I think that’s pretty unusual.
Most kids do remember things from when they’re four or five onwards, and a few things from earlier. The memories we retain in a “pure” sense (what we remember on our own, without the aid of other people’s stories, photographs, etc.) have a lot to do with the emotional impact of certain moments. I do wonder, now that we have a generation of young adults who’ve grown up so “documented” on videotape, how that colors what they remember and how they remember it. I mean, I can remember being in the first grade play, the bright blue velvet dress I wore and how it felt the same as the red curtains, looking out over the audience, a few moments from backstage…but if I’d relived that over and over by watching it on a video instead of in my own head, where the perspective would be looking at me, and the stage, from the audience’s point of view, would that have changed what I see and feel when I looked back on that play? It’s a fascinating question. And I seem to have gotten carried away…sorry!
Don’t be sorry. I find all this fascinating. I do think you’re unusual to have a memory or two from such a very young age but you’re not the first person to tell me that either.
I remember the quote from Anne Sexton, “It doesn’t matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was.” I think my memories are like that though when I think about writing some of them down I imagine my mom reading them and telling me how wrong I have it.
I no longer know what I remember in a pure sense though and that’s rather sad.
I have a few memories, but they’re more like snapshot photos of a thing or a person. I can remember looking into a room where my grandfather (who died when I was three) was ill. I can remember the monkey swing at my preschool. None of these things come with motion or conversation, though, must an image.
I’ve talked to my son about it–he’s almost twelve. He definitely remembers moments from his preschool, but–and this may be one of the keys–the moments include kids with whom he’s still friends. I think we “remember” things more if the person/place involved continues in our life. Things that happened once, but didn’t have a tie in to our later life, may be more easily erased.
“Things that happened once, but didn’t have a tie in to our later life, may be more easily erased.”
This is very interesting to me – yes. And yet I wonder about a memory that is tied to something like a relative who is no longer in your life but is more “there” because of the effort to NOT talk about them? If that makes any sense. I know that we never really talked about my dad growing up but I am sure I have a couple of memories about things around him and I clung to them, even though they were negative.
of course my memory could also have just been a story told to me by my family to quit asking so many questions.
The memory of my grandfather is, I think, very much like that. As I said, he died when I was young. While he lived he was pretty much a workaholic and didn’t come visit with my grandmother–I’m sure I didn’t see him much. Yet I have this memory–its not so much me standing in a doorway as the perspective is from the doorway and low enough that I know its my young, short self looking in. The room is dark, and he’s in bed. I can’t see him, so who knows how I know its him–that’s just part of the memory, the knowledge.
For years, I thought this had been some kind of dream. My grandfather died of strokes, so why would he have been in a dark room, during the daytime–if I was up to look in? Then I finally asked my mother. Turned out before my grandfather had strokes, he had shingles, and I guess they went into or near his eyes. Hence the dark room.
Now this same grandfather was, later, almost there by his absence–as you talk about. My other three grandparents lived until I was in my thirties, so he was the one that didn’t make it. He was the one that listened to people and got his family, my mom included, out of Nazi Germany. He was the one who was in the British civil service during the war and not always around. He was the one with the pet shops that had monkeys and baby lion cubs. And he was the one that told my mom she could do anything, even go to vet school when nobody wanted women doing that.
So…if he’d lived, or I hadn’t heard all these things about him, would I remember the snapshot of the dark room?
I think you’re very right. A strong absence is probably just as much a link to the past as an actual presence.
I remember back to around three and a half or so–my earliest memory is of buying labels with my name on them to sew into my clothes for nursery school.
I sometimes think memory begins sometime around nursery school because that’s when something different from day to day life first happens.
Wow, that’s a very specific memory. And interesting about the “that’s when something different happens.” You could be right.
I remember walking around the block to the do the shopping with my grandmother and I think I would have been pre-school age. But then every time I think I have a strong memory I start to wonder if it is just a story I have heard.
I agree, I think 4 is a common age. I remember my sister born and I was 2 1/2.
But the memories are different than mature memories, I remember the wallpaper next to my cheek when I was lying in bed, (mickey mouse) I remember being scared standing on tip toe watching out the window as my Dad climbed a telephone pole that had the clothes line and a shirt was snagged. But it is the sensation of being scared, standing on tip toe, more than the actual “what was going on”. Does that make sense?
Oooh..this is very interesting. Yes, it makes sense. Thank you.
I have a lot of memories from ages 4-5. I started keeping an occasional diary from the time I was 5 and I definitely remember almost everything I wrote about there. Other memories too. Probably more than I could list. 4 sounds about right.
” I started keeping an occasional diary from the time I was 5 “
Do you know how jealous I am of that? Wow. I’m glad 4 sounds about right. Thanks.
When I was in high school, I could remember back to when I was 2–I could remember a *lot* of specific instances of interaction with my parents, shopping trips, playing in the snow, etc, from the years I was 2, 3, and 4. The memories are fuzzier now, but I wrote them all down for an autobiography project when I was a junior in high school and got about 40 pages worth (which makes me want to go dig that out!). I think as a teen, we’re closer to those memories than we are as an adult, so it’s entirely possible that your character will remember things from his or her early childhood that an adult might not.
Love your icon pic, BTW!!!
You reminded me of an autobiography I wrote as well. I reread it earlier this year and I remember wondering how I remembered those things. I think you’re right – that being younger my character will have a better chance of remembering some things. of course I’ve also blocked his memories with the big bad terrible thing that happens that changes his life. 🙂
I’m a bit of a different case. My most prominent memory is at age 7. (Fishing with grandpa, caught my first fish)
However. I was, at age ten, trampled by a horse and had a severe concussion and some pretty serious injuries. So that may attribute some to my lack of memories.
Yikes on the being trampled at such a young age. At 12 I got my foot caught in a stirrup and was dragged for a long ways before I shook loose of the runaway horse and then rolled down a hill quite a bit. Hmmm..that probably explains a lot about me.
I have those memories at 6/7 too with my grandfather but I think I’ve come to the conclusion that as I get older, my memories are going to get farther away and harder to remember.
My earliest memory is of me on my back in the crib…it’s dark…Mama and a man look in on me…the man hands me a little stuffed lion.
I told my mom about it and she was surprised, but said I was spot on. The man was someone she was dating at that time. I still have the stuffed lion. (I was around a year old.)
Don’t do things in front of babies that babies shouldn’t see… They just might remember! ;-D
“Don’t do things in front of babies that babies shouldn’t see”
Ain’t that the truth?
That’s some memory you have. Wow!
Now, names? No such luck! lol
I have a couple of memories from when I was two: Not wanting to change out my jeans into the scratchy organza dress for the professional photographer. And having my father lift me up to help him turn on the security system in his office. I said, “Ding ding the me me.”
LOL. I am now going to have that phrase stuck in my head – “Ding ding the me me.”
Thank you. You’re another one with very tactile memories. It’s all fascinating to me.
My earliest memory is of my mom coming home from the hospital after having my sister. I was 2 yrs, 11 months old. I have a few spotty memories from then up to age 5, and then lots from age 5 on.
Boy, another memory from a very young age. Obviously getting a little sister ranked high for you. 4-5 is sounding good then. thanks.
Mostly I remember sensations: people rubbing stuff off my face with a hot washcloth, having a too-tight sweater pulled off over my head. The damp of my grandparents basement. Getting spanked. I don’t remember how old I was for any of this — though it was likely sometime between 4 and 7. I have a few specific memories of kindergarten (age 5), but nothing that I can really date from before that.
Wow – you remember such wonderful tactile details.. No wonder you grew up to be a writer. 🙂 I get trigger memories like that. My mom and I were talking about taking care of sick relatives the other day and I said I didn’t even like to try and take a splinter out of someone else’s hand and she said she could never take one out of mine – she always had to take me to my grandfather to do it. And all at once I had a full memory of sitting on the sink while he took his pocket knife and dug it out and then slathered on the Bactine and then my mom would put on the Bandaid. But when the Bandaid came off and left that sticky gunk my grandfather would use a rag soaked in Energine to get it off.
But without the trigger, the memory was no where to be found.
I can remember when I was two. However, I can’t recall much that happened last week.
LOL – BTW, the other night I dreamt you were a rock star and now there’s this talk about your book maybe being seen on Oprah??? You go girl!
I seem to have the same problem. Isn’t the mind weird?
not so uncommon as I had thought. Good to know. Thanks.
I may be a bit of an anomaly where memories are concerned. I have always been able to remember way back. Like when my sister dumped me out of our wagon and knocked my tooth out I was 14 months old. I remember being in the hospital when my tonsils were removed at 18 months. And its not just snapshot memories. I can remember the colors, smells sounds and textures of things also. Not just significant events, but little things too, like my dog wetting in my shoe. I had just turned 2. I had a head injury when I was in 3rd grade. Massive concussion and skull fracture with some paralysis. Odd thing is, after I recovered from my injuries, my memory improved. Memories became clearer, like someone improved the focus on a movie camera. I had a small stroke in the spring of 1999. My short term memory is pretty much shot. I could hardly tell you what I ate for breakfast today. But memories from before that are still so crystal clear… Fun subject Susan! Thanks for the memories!
I remember bouncing up and down in my crib and throwing my stuffed animals on the floor. No kidding.
I swear I even remember parts of my first birthday.
A lot of my 4-year-old memories are pretty vivid.
My earliest memory is almost a snapshot visual – it’s from aged 20 months. Consistent memory (at least places and some events, sensations, etc.) started at 3 for me.
My mother, on the other hand, can’t remember anything before age 6 or so.