“Memory can’t be stored, ready for retrieval like images on a videotape […] memory is fallible, dependent on mood and circumstance, and subject to distortion.” (Margaret Murphy)

On my first positive note (…insert sarcastic smiley here…) I would like to disagree with Margaret Murphy based on personal experiences and an A-Level in Pyschology (not that I remembered much..).

Maybe memory can’t be ‘stored’, but if that’s the case how do we explain remembering our first kiss in excruciatingly clear detail, or small defining moments of our lives when your first pet Hamster, Munchkins, bit you, or where you were when you heard about 7/7? Is it age? Your ability to remember certain times at your life, what you did 10 years ago compared to yesterday? Older people always use this to explain why they can’t remember putting their pants on in the morning but can remember coming home from the war to their wives and children.

The possible explanation being that you remember based on the effect that moment in time had on your life. The meaningless day-to-day walk to school, the usual, the norm, when nothing out of the ordinary has happened, you aren’t going to remember, but the abnormal, the cherished moments you hold for life… all have to be held somewhere, right? So, if it isn’t memory being stored then I don’t know what it is, because recently my mind has been beating me with all the things I can ‘retrieve’ from the significant, even meaningless moments of my life. They must be coming from somewhere.

I completely agree that “memory is fallible”, I can make up situations in my mind that seem more realistic than real life memories. Schemas change over time, proved when in situations with people who may have shared the same experience at the same time, but have different memories or ideas of what happened hence distortion. A holiday anecdote is certain to be told differently between my Mum and I, whether that is just because she over-exaggerates or because we had different view points on the same story, I’m not sure. However, over time that differences is bound to become bigger due to the distorted nature of schema. It fills the gaps with what seems appropriate – what’s appropriate could be seen entirely differently between each individual.

I do however, half agree that memory is dependent on mood and circumstance, when sad and unhappy the mind may flit across various memories due to sentimentality but it can also be the other way around. The mind has a magnificent way of reminding us of times had when we completely unexpect it… a song, a smell, even as simple as a car driving past can evoke such strong emotions that our moods change.

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Now I’ll start on my own memory or ‘ries’ after a laughter filled (at my childhood’s expense) dinner with the family.

I won’t deny that this wasn’t one of the hardest task I’ve come across. For a family that doesn’t really do sentimental, we are the Wonfords after all – sentimentality isn’t really an option, we collect what is necessary and store it away in a drawer or metaphorically ‘a mind box’ ready for a humiliating anecdote at dinner; “Em, do you remember that time you cut your fringe into a triangle right up to your hairline and we had to cut it all the time so you didn’t have the spiky bits coming out your forehead” (known as a fringle) or “Em, do you remember what you used to call your black currant juice? blackcurrant juicy stop and go, stop and go,” then Mum, on cue, will turn to a person at the table who hasn’t yet heard the hilarious story or in fact, someone who has, who must hear it again and explain that when I was small, and I add very small, I used to think the tap had to be run, then stopped in order for the drink to be made, not realising it was to make the water cool.

What else? Oh yes, my long gone fear of chickens or buckaboos as my infant self would ridiculously call them. An eventful trip to Wingham Bird Park resulted in being chased by chickens…“Buckaboos gonna get me! Bucka bucka booos!” or my need to ride my black retriever, Dantwo, like a horse and my mothers need to take photos of my sister and I dressed in matching outfits (I’m adamant that all siblings must go through this at some point in their lives, twins or not).

Not that I had forgotten, but my Mum was sure to remind me of my good friend Lucy or Juicy Lucy as she was christened on my 5th birthday. Lucy of the Juicy variety was a 3ft walking doll, almost as tall as my 5 year old self and went everywhere – no exaggeration. Her first outing was to my reception class at Cliftonville Primary to meet my class mates – anyone who touched her was sent to the corner – unfortunate for one young boy. Her second trip resulted in a meeting with the police – she was so life like that when left in the car with the windows shut, people were concerned for her, (as were the elderly couple when she was left in Iceland car park in Margate on a warm summers day wearing jogging bottoms, winter coat, boots and hat – all my own). Dear ol’ Lucy would have baths when I wouldn’t (much to my mothers distaste, especially when I was still left grubby from a day building a mud hut on my existing plastic garden house). After each bath, she would need to be dismantled, limbs detached, so the water could dry out. Unfortunately Lucy’s hair endured the same fringle fate that my own did. Yes I cut it. Myself. Hair dresser in the making, not. Difficult to explain to the gentleman who bought her (and, hopefully, saved her from further hair malfunctions) at a car boot sale. I just explained that she needed a trim.

For a family of 5 girls and the female dog…(hell, for any male that steps over the threshold) who have only a handful of real life objects to remind them of the (cliché alert) laughs, tears, arguments and tantrums (the before-school breakfast tantrums, mainly, where Mum would pick up her briefcase and pretend to go to work but instead sit in the car, wait until the tears had stopped, breakfast was eaten and shoes were put on, come back in and take us to school) we rely heavily on the mental object: our childhoods and life together.

We are camera clickers but photos hardly get displayed, they get put away in a drawer, they lay there waiting to hit us with reminders of a life we’ve lived, the longer they lay waiting, the more of an emotional impact they have.

We own objects of course, but they make the house a home, materialistic purchases, rarely do they come with any exceptional memory, unless the shopping trip in which they were paid for and brought home was of an importance.

My object is the reification of my childhood. It’s the most important thing I own and doesn’t just affect me but my sisters and my own Mum (I say own because as a child I was constantly reminded by my older sister that Mum was hers and not mine – I still say I’m adopted, though unfortunately my Mum tells me there is proof I am not, pfft piece of paper or no piece of paper I’m still a child that belongs to the wild things and the Gruffalo). I rely on her memory and that of my older sister to relay parts I’ve missed or forgotten and they rely on mine to do the same.

This is why I disagree so wholeheartedly with Murphy’s statement because memory can be stored, my family has proved that, we don’t need objects displayed around the house to remind us of our pasts, we just need each other, and as dinner proved this evening, we can retrieve all the memories we want within a moment…the ones stored away, ready for times like these.

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