Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Memory Game

The Memory Game by Nicci French took me a little while to settle into.  It's set in England, and has a very English feel, so it felt very foreign to me at first.  Once I was acclimated, however, the story took over.  The story centers around a middle-aged woman discovering the long buried body of her childhood friend.  The bulk of the book is her quest to find the truth hidden in her memories. 

The bottom line is that the human memory is very unreliable.  I've had some personal experience with that.  A few years ago, I was involved in a hit and run car accident.  As the other driver took off, I tried to memorize his license plate.  When the police arrived, the numbers were gone from my memory.  So I closed my eyes and tried to visualize what the plate looked like.  A very clear image popped into my head, and I gave the number to the police.  When I finally made it home, I saw my husband's car in the driveway.  With the license plate number I had just given the police.  My mind really wanted to remember that plate number, so when it couldn't find it, something else was dredged up and put in its place!

For most of my life, I had two very clear memories of my dad (who died when I was four).  The first involved a conversation with him about cutting my hair.  In the memory, my hair is very long, almost to my butt, and curly.  Here's the problem with this memory- my hair is straight.  Oh, and I never had long hair as a child.  There is not a single picture of me with hair any longer than shoulder-length.  I asked my mom about this, and she confirmed that I never had the hair I so clearly remembered. 

The second memory was of the day my dad died.  I remember getting ready in the morning and as I was leaving with my mom running back into the house to give my dad one more hug.  My mom shot this one down too.  My dad always left the house before we did, including the day of his death. 

So here I am with two wonderful memories of my dad.  And neither one is correct.  Are they at all based on reality?  I have no way of knowing.  Even though I know they are inaccurate (at best) they still appear to me as absolutely concrete remembrances.  Something in my brain saw a gap that needed to be filled and created some plausible events to fill the hole.  But knowing that I have these false memories makes me wonder about everything else I "remember." 

What do you remember?

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