Where Does Memory Come From?

My heart skipped an extra beat when I was talking to my sister Susie this holiday to wish her season’s greetings.  At the same time, I was thinking how to finesse a segue to her memories of the day I burned my leg, which I realized was probably impossible to do so subtly.  And so I just asked, “On another note, Susie I have this memory of you telling me that you smelled me burning and told mom to go upstairs and check on me.  Is that at all accurate?”  Susie, the consummate Ph.D. in psychology, paused as she would normally do to process the question and her response.  “I have to tell you Annie,” she said and hesitated a bit.  “I don’t remember a thing about that day.”  My mind swirled.  How could that be?  The story I long remembered was that she and I were playing downstairs in the basement.  Mom was with us just feet away, ironing and talking on the phone.  I saw that image clear as day.  How could Susie, who was a whole 18 months older than me, not have any recollection? 

“How old would I have been then,” she asked. 

“You would have been 3 and a half.  I was just a couple weeks shy of two.”

“Well, I guess that’s why I don’t remember anything.  I was so young.  I’m sorry.  Tell me what you remember.”  And so I did, my memory being much more vivid than what she knew or recalled, even though I know she was there with me that day.

Where exactly does memory come from?  How can we recollect something so clearly that someone else hasn’t registered?  It’s one of those mysteries that has to be accepted and is absolutely befuddling.  I so wanted confirmation of my memory and at the same time, know that when you embark on a journey to uncover the past, you simply have to accept whatever it is that you find.

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