This blog post has been in and out of the trash for nearly two weeks. I usually don’t rescue things after I throw them in the trash — as I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m good at throwing things away. The ideas here have been bugging me, though, so I’d guess I’d better share them so they’ll go away, stay away, and not even think of creeping back into any breakfast conversations.
Ideas? Yes. Plural. There are two. Possibly two and a half, but there’s definitely more than one. At least three. On second thought, there could be four or five. Here, I’ll make a li … no, never mind. I figure the best way to keep this from continuing to be a spherical firehose will be to stick to one idea.
So, here’s this one.
Do photographs augment or usurp memory?
I didn’t take any pictures on my unexpected trip. Don’t, usually. I’d say that I don’t take pictures because I get angry at myself for not being able to capture what I saw that made me want to take the picture in the first place, but I’ve been wondering if that’s less true than my not wanting to have something around that can eventually usurp my memory of events. See, I’m not entirely sure anymore if some of my memories are wholly genuine, or just story scenes I’ve built around photographs.
Here’s an example.
My earliest memory is leaf-filtered sunlight on smooth rocks and thin clear green water, bird chirps and cicada song and a lazy wet breeze, tiny fish darting around my toes and someone saying something above my head, not as far away as the trees, but as distant as thunder.
Sorry about the comma splice word salad there: it’s as close as I can get to describing the memory. If you need more detail, just imagine Thomas Hart Benton crossed with Manet, as cinematographed by Philippe Rousselot (ref. A River Runs Through It). I think that’ll do.
At least, I think that’s my earliest memory. I could be wrong, because there’s this:
Yes, it’s a terrible picture, even for a cell phone photograph taken of a ten year old printout from a digital scan (my late aunt sent me the printout, but not the file: Mom still has the original photo) of a photograph that was taken in the early 70s. The big blur is my grandfather, and the smaller one is me. We’re in the woods somewhere, just about to go wading down the stream I’ve already gotten my bare feet into. He’s going to ruin his dress clothes (not his buttondown, because he took that off a few moments before), and my black-and-red-and-white (no pink!) play outfit’s going to be covered in mud — and check out the knots of hair somebody must have spent an hour pinning in place on top of my head. It’s almost like whomever did that was trying their best to show the world that I was a little girl, despite my best efforts to be a little boy.
Wipe the blood from your eyes and go take a look at the previous paragraph again. I’m describing everything from my adult perspective, right?
I’ve known about this photograph since I was a little girl. It’s one of my favorite ones — the reason my aunt got me a printout of it ten years ago. No one in my family remembers the date it was taken, the location, the reason why Papa was in dress clothes (he usually wore overalls and a plaid shirt), who put my hair up like that (I usually wore pigtails), or even who took the picture. I don’t remember when I first recognized the memory I described above as a memory, and labeled it my first.
I have no idea if it’s actually a memory at all, or just some backwards interpretation of what wading in a stream on a day like that would look like, based on post-early childhood experiences.
Does it matter?
Why does it bug me?
It’s possible it’s just a story idea pretending to be something all philosophical ‘n deep ‘n stuff so I won’t notice it’s trying to eat my brain. Seriously, brain, I’m busy.