Sunday 21 July 2019

What's in a memory?

My great-grandmother, image from a digitized glass photograph

For the last two sessions in the Write Yard creative writing group we were looking loosely at memoirs.
There were readings from published and unpublished works. An extraordinary story of family life in the frozen north of Canada in the 1920's who survived through remarkable hardship. An excerpt from Svetlana Alliluyeva's '20 letters to a friend', the daughter of Stalin, describing her privileged life in the Kremlin. And many others.
There were stories of schooldays remembered with remarkable clarity. The little girl who brought in her prized fossil collection to show her teacher, who assumed they were being donated to the school and locked them in a cupboard. The girl who often sneaked into the biology laboratory to see the animals and got drawn into a percussion workshop found the course of her life irrevocably changed from that day, becoming a career percussionist. 
One member brought a coffee pot, part of a set which had been inherited through the generations, and was greatly loved. In the same way that photographs remind us of relatives long since gone, so do the pieces of jewellery and other treasured items kept safely in the cupboards of our homes. 
Everyone has significant memories which may differ greatly to those of others who were also present at the same events. The way memories may be corrupted by information gathered later, for instance from photographs, cultural attitudes and  our own remarkable mental processes means that every moment saved and catalogued in our brains is individually unique.
And so there is a place for documenting and sharing even the most mundane of happenings. What may seem ordinary today may be unusual or even extraordinary tomorrow. Those diaries and journals, written generally for personal pleasure,  are windows into history and culture.

#memory #amwriting #preciousthings #creativewriting

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