Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
Mem’ries, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember…
The way we were…
Thank you Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman (lyrics) and Marvin Hamlisch (music) for writing, what I consider, the quintessential song about memories. For a couple years, now, I have been thinking a lot about the memories we have tucked away in our minds, and how interesting it is that we who have shared the very same experiences can either have such differing recall of those moments in time, or for some of us, no memory of it at all. When faced with this phenomenon, I often find myself humming or even singing The Way We Were. Yes, let’s hear it for those misty, water-colored memories, because I realize there frequently is little about those things we remember that is crystalline, or completely consistent with the memory someone else shares of the same event.
Recently, many of the conversations in our home go something like, “Do you remember when…?” I often respond with, “No, I don’t remember that.” At this point, I get to hear a story about something I did, or something that happened to me, in colorful detail; all the while wondering where I was when it happened.
There also have been similar conversations, but with each of us having differing memories of the story. I learned a long time ago the futility of implying my memory was the correct one, and the other memory was nonsense. That is pretty much the same as poking someone with a very sharp stick, and then being surprised when that person bristles, or ends up with hurt feelings.
I tried reading about memory and the brain activity that creates it. Too complicated. The neuroanatomy of memory is completely wasted on me. Reading about the hippocampus, amygdala, cerebral cortex, frontal, parietal or lateral lobes; all of that research summed up as an investment of time I shall never get back, with not one word of it committed to my (you guessed it) memory.
In mulling this over, I have decided it does not matter to me how our memories got there. I do not care what happened inside our brains that caused the minutiae of our lives to be filed into tiny cabinets that may or may not resemble someone else’s. Our recollections of an experience are autobiographic. The colors, sounds, shapes, emotions, responses, successes, failures, ups, downs, ins and outs of our existence are stored, and subsequently can be shared, or just kept tucked away for private reveries. However they are used, they are about us, and will remain ours. Individually or collectively, none is more or less valid than that of the person who has a similar file in his memory cabinet.
This is a unique time in my life right now. And because it is fleeting, I have decided to put away responses that have gone unspoken, but reverberate inside my head, and sound something like, “Where in the world did you come up with that? Are you making this stuff up? I was there, that is not what happened!” In the end, it does not matter. My memories are not altered nor replaced because another’s are different. The best I can do today is find some commonality in a story; with emotion the most likely candidate for agreement. We can always remember how we felt. And in my home, just as the song says, more often than not, it’s the laughter we will remember, whenever we remember the way we were…