Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fingertips Have Memories

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?


  1. I hate those first memory things. I can't describe them because I think my brain is paralyzed in some ways. There's a lot of softness and fogginess, and everything in my head claims to come before everything else. It's the best I can do to pick out something that seems to be a long time ago; canned fruits, rose syrup, candles on a cake and whatever was on the television. They might not even be mine, those memories, and I'll be damned if I know when they were. Memory is far too unreliable, anyway. You might as well just make it all up. That way, at least it sounds nice.

  2. "The first thing I remember, I was lying in my bed
    I couldn't've been no more than one or two
    And i remember there's a radio, coming from the room next door
    My mother laughed the way some ladies' do

    Well it's late in the evening, and the music's seeping through"

  3. Anonymous4:18 PM

    when we decided to use them as a replacement for brain space. It's easier.

  4. first memory... tough.

    All my memories a jumbled in a little ball that saves space for firguring out the rest of the world and enjoying music.

    Most times someone will say something and then eventually I remember.

    Photos are good. Because they can fill in blanks and then be used as blackmail.

    However I like them because they store the perfect image of the moment. Only the image. To truly remember the moment you must remember the exact feeling that went along with the photo. Otherwise its just documenting that you were out there. It gives us room in our minds to feel the moment and to see it externally, in a much more precise way than our memories.

  5. So to remember how everything looks, but not feels. The feeling is the memory, the image is the photo. Does this make anysense? Frig I need to study. I need sleep. GAH!

  6. My Uncle moved out of his first house in Whitbourne, NF when I was 2... When I was back there 2 years ago, we drove in front of it, and I remembered it. My sister didn't believe me, but I started describing the inside, and sure enough, I was bang on... Strange...