Memories: True, or False

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Cover 1“Shadows on the Grass” is partly a novel about memory. About what is remembered and what is forgotten, what matters, when it is recalled, and what does not.

At the present moment, this is a topic very much to the forefront of the news and, while I do not intend to comment on current events, it is interesting to speculate how many of our memories are what we actually remember and how many are triggered by something else.

One of my most vivid “memories” is of a bright summer day, playing in the meadow on  the hill above our house and being caught by my dad to have a photo taken.

Me aged 2Looking back, I would ask whether I truly remember this, or is it the photograph and the story I was told that sparks this “recollection.” What is even more interesting, is that when I was looking for the picture I had in mind, I could not find it in my album, so have posted this one, which I think is from the same day, in its place.

Mike would say the same about one of his earliest memories. When he was a very little boy, he’s not sure exactly how old he was, but it was certainly under three, his family lived in Kenya. His father was an officer in the King’s African Rifles and it was a time of great unrest. White settlers and their homes were often under attack and as part of their security, Mike’s family had some Rhodesian RidgebackRhodesian Ridgeback dogs and a python that slept curled up on the veranda.

He remembers sleeping on top of this snake. Apparently the reptile had been fed and it was perfectly safe to let a toddler nap on its coils.

Was this true? Although he “remembers” doing so, he suspects that it was a story that he had been told as a child and which had been embellished over the years.

This is always the problem with our pasts. Or memories make us who we are, how we see ourselves and how we present ourselves to other people. Because we always want to put out the most attractive, or sympathetic view of ourselves, we edit what we want to present and as we tell our stories, we make them more significant and dramatic with each telling.

To lose one’s memories is to lose one’s identity, which  must be one of the most harrowing things that can happen to a human being.

None of my characters in “Shadows on the Grass” suffer this fate, although there a number of family secrets that are kept well hidden and only revealed at the end of the book.

 

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