Memories Are Invaluable, But Not Infallible Primary Resources

Big Stock Photo

Big Stock Photo

I was in my crib, in my dark room, and I could see my dad, down the hall in the lighted kitchen. Our family’s German shepherd-mix dog slept on the rug next to my crib. And my blue and white stuffed dog was in the crib with me.

This is my first memory.

Except it isn’t.

I did have a blue and white stuffed dog. Our real dog did sleep on the rug next to my crib. However, according to my parents, we never lived in a house that would have allowed me to see from my room, down a hall, and into the kitchen.

Memory is a tricky thing. Sometimes we remember certain things vividly. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we suppress memories.

What about my first memory? I’m guessing it was the memory of a dream based on things important to me–my dogs and my dad. But it stuck with me.

Perhaps we remember emotions better than facts. In my dream/false memory I felt safe. In other memories, I still feel the fear, anger, shame, happiness, etc. I felt during the event.

Writers of biography, history, and historical fiction depend on primary resources. Eye-witness accounts. Sometimes these are of recent events. Sometimes the accounts are memories of a less-recent event.

Sometimes the person provides accurate information. Sometimes the person’s memory is faulty. Sometimes the person lies. That’s why authors and historians look for multiple primary sources to determine facts.

However, there is no better way to find out how an event made someone feel than to read or listen to that person’s memories.

In your reading, research, and writing, how do you evaluate other people’s memories? What is your first memory?

2 comments

  1. jheitman22

    What an interesting post & question! Because of false, or at least slanted, memories, memoirs and autobiographies are highly suspect! It’s always interesting to see how a person reports about him/herself vs. how others report about that person. As for my own early memories, there are things that I don’t know if I remember myself or if I have heard about them or seen pictures of them so often that it SEEMS as if I remember it.

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