In feature writing class the other week, my teacher enthusiastically informed us that after a very generous 10-minute break, we would be doing a writing exercise! (The exclamation mark on that sentence is courtesy of her excitement, not mine.)
We all inwardly groaned. We were tired. It was the middle of term paper season, at the brink of finals, and she wanted us to do a writing assignment that wasn’t even worth marks? Why wouldn’t she just let us go home early instead? (This is what university has reduced us to; we now hate writing to the point where we are only motivated if we are rewarded with a letter grade at the end of the day, worth a certain percentile at the end of the term. For a bunch of people who hate math, journalism students sure do love numbers).
After our very generous break, we sat back in our chairs and were instructed to meditate. To focus. To breathe in and out. I’ve never been very good at these exercises. It’s like the minute of silence at church. For the first 20 seconds I earnestly pray, and for the last 40, I think about what I’m going to eat when I get home. (I love grilled cheese sandwiches on Sundays. Soup, maybe? Or maybe I’ll convince my mom to take me to Clark’s General Store and we’ll stare at the frozen lake over burgers.) I meditate and breathe on my own terms. Crossword puzzles are meditation. Repeating single words back to myself is meditation. Sitting in a freezing cold, cramped, grey classroom of 30 students, on the other hand, is not relaxing, by any conventional standards.
But I tried.
“I want you to write about your first memory,” she told us after several minutes of silence, “you have thirty minutes.”
I stifled a laugh. The first memory? What is the first memory? How do we even know what our first memory is? How can you attach a date, a time, a year, an image, to events that may have just been a dream? How can you ascribe a chronology to events that aren’t linear? And what if there are just too many?
My first memories aren’t images. They aren’t even necessarily events. They are colours, vague, blurry feelings with no solid lines. They are like when you walk into a room and say, “this smells like my kindergarten teacher,” and you immediately recall the feeling of finger paint on your hands. They are wavering lines of purples and greens and sunshine spliced throughout.
Those are memories.
With this in mind, when did the photos begin replacing the memories? Do you remember something because someone told you about it, and you saw a picture of it? What’s the difference between having knowledge of an event and the actual memory of it?
When did the photos begin replacing the memories?