Past Memories and the Creation of New Ones…

I was sitting in one of my favorite cafés in Venice, and over the speakers a piece of music started playing which brought me back in time.  Memories started flowing into my mind…

It’s strange, but when I go over memories from my childhood the images come in sometimes as black & white or in sepia tones…very moviesque.  Interesting.  Sometimes, for me, there are things that are difficult to remember, even if I really want and try to, I cannot reach them.  Others flow easily into my mind and become more intense and vivid.  I think Mira Bartok is correct when she wrote in her book, The Memory Palace, “We humans are different–our brains are built not to fix memories in stone but rather to transform them. Our recollections change in their retelling.”

However, the advantage of having a twin brother is like having a proofreader.  He can really help clarify some of my unclear memories I have, since we experienced many of the same things as children.  One of the advantages of being a twin.

Anyway, I generally remember the fun and positive things during the earlier periods of my life, when I had less responsibilities and stress.

One of the things I remember as a child, was the times, generally after dinner, when the family would sit down together and watch home movies my father and mother had filmed.  The beautiful moving images were on 8mm film and projected on a white wall in the living room, or on a screen that my father would bring from his office.   The movies would be of my brother and I, family holidays, and family gatherings.  Most of the individual films captured moments of happiness.  I loved these evenings.  I forgot about school (which I hated…I was definitely not a scholastic prodigy!) and other things that I considered a struggle at that time, as I slipped into a fantasy world, immersing myself in happy and fresh memories.

As my life marches forward I find myself thinking more and more of the past.  Many of the memories are not as fresh anymore, since they happened quite a few years ago, but I try to hold onto and remember the wonderful experiences I have had so far…such as growing up in the English countryside, playing in the fields on the local farms, building forts from freshly cut straw and hay bales…all the pets and animals we owned (ferrets, chickens, sheep, cats, horses), our massive vegetable garden, our homemade jams and juices, the three fields we owned, as well as two small apple orchards…the wonderful spring months as the buds developed into flowers and leaves, family holidays in Cornwell and Wales, learning to ski in Austria…riding lessons at the Balcombe Riding Stables, visiting my grandparents in Bremen, North Germany, on a regular basis…mum and dad taking my brother and me to the local pub, after driving back from the beach on a beautiful summer’s evening with the dreamy orange glow of a setting sun.

Other wonderful memories include my parents taking us to London to visit the zoo (where one of my favorites was the Chimpanzee Tea Party at 3 o’clock), the Tower of London, Harrods in the Royal Borough of Kensington, and Chelsea.  Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, Westminster, Covent Garden, Speakers Corner next to Hyde Park…on and on and on.

Obviously, with the good memories come the not so good ones.  But one thing that I thought about is how careful one has to be in regards to not doing or saying something that has the potential of a negative result.  Negative actions, towards other people, have the potential to inflict emotional scars on them and myself.  When I was younger I said and did things with not much thought as to what the outcome would be.  So now I have negative memories, resulting from some of the things I have done…I can never take them back.  You can say ”sorry”, but the reality is that some residue of those actions will be there for life, ultimately forming into negative memories.

The practical reality of creating positive (versus negative) memories for the future has been reinforced a number of times, and again recently, when I read an article in Town & 

Country Magazine entitled ESTABLISHMENT VS. ESTABLISHMENT (January 2012, page 77).  This article was part of a series of monthly articles associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.  The Establishment vs. Establishment article covered three individual experiences, of demonstration, from the past (basically, the OWS movement is nothing new, just re-titled)…One of the three segments was called SAYING NO To DADDY and was written by Patti Davis (President Ronald Reagan’s daughter).

“…My father, for his part, was not a man to begrudge anyone a divergent opinion; he’d have been fine if I had written some articles disagreeing with his policies, or even given interviews, as long as I was respectful and civil.  But I chose stridency instead.  I chose an in-your-face approach that, because of who I was, actually distracted from the issue I was trying to address.  I said frequently that my protests weren’t personal – I was simply against my father’s politics – but of course that wasn’t heard.  Actions speak louder than words, as trite as that sounds.  I was a child railing against a parent, nothing more.

My immaturity lay in not understanding that the choices we make never affect only us.  Everything we do has a ripple effect.  Decades later I would look into my father’s eyes and try to reach past the murkiness of Alzheimer’s with my words, my apology, hoping that in his heart he heard me and understood.

This is what I know now that I didn’t know then: How you express yourself is just as important as what you are expressing.  Anger is generally not a good communication tool, and a daughter publicly protesting her father’s policies as he sits in the Oval Office, the elected Leader of the Free World, send only one message: anger…

…One of my deepest regrets is how I responded when my father asked – several times – if I would sit down and talk to him, listen to his side of the issue. “I already know your side,” I told him, “I know where you stand.” I can still hear his hurt silence on the other end of the phone…”

As I enter the next phase of my life, creating new memories (memories resulting directly from my own direct actions versus those that are forced on me, good or bad), it is important for me, particularly when dealing with people, to tread carefully, to be positive, helpful, and be as considerate as possible.  Depending on the situation, not an easy task, but one that will lead to more pleasant and happier memories down the road!

“Withdraw, like a turtle, into a hard yet harmless shell, ornamented with beautiful memories of the past.” – Mariam Masood

~ by Jens Wallrabe on October 22, 2012.

2 Responses to “Past Memories and the Creation of New Ones…”

  1. That’s a great piece you wrote Jens. Makes me think of all my wonderful childhood memories. I loved the part about Reagan’s daughter. I didn’t know that. Yes- thoughtful discussion is key without all the negative mud slinging. We should be able to disagree with one another but still work with each other in a positive way.

    • Thank you Rob! You are so correct…it is such an unsettled time with politics, the economy, with my sport of cycling. Its important to remember who we are, and to be above the fray by being open and respectful. That doesn’t mean you have to loose yourself and your beliefs…

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