I’m the youngest of 3 children and there’s only 5 years between myself and the eldest, a brother, and 3 years between myself and my sister, so you would think we’d all have similar memories if our childhood, but no.

I remember watching cartoons, playing with the neighbours child, and celebrating the holidays. I do not recall anything of consequence between my siblings or my parents. In fact, I recall a most uneventful childhood.

My siblings, on the other hand, have very vivid and detailed memories of our upbringing. They both recall the houses we lived in, the schools we attended and any hardships we endured. As new immigrants my parents both worked, hard, to build a life in a new country so luxuries were pretty scarce in the early part of our lives. (I never saw that)

My sister recalls Christmases where there were no gifts and meals that were bereft of meat or fresh fruit and vegetables, because it was the end of a pay period and funds were short. (ok, I remember eating noodles a lot but I love noodles so the lack of meat and vegetables was ok by me). I recall the holidays always being a very happy time. There was music and company, and chocolate ornaments, and that must’ve been enough because I don’t remember when there were no gifts under the tree. In fact, I don’t recall any gifts in any capacity. (maybe I was just a happy kid)

I do not remember arguments between my father and his, nor do I recall the hateful ethnic slurs one of our neighbours hurled at us because he hated immigrants (I do remember his daughter had Barbie and Midge and Skipper AND the beautiful black patent leather Barbie carry case)

I do not remember when my brother almost died from an infection or when he was hit by a car. (But I do remember when he took the wheels off my doll carriage to make a go cart – boy, he really caught hell from my mother for that one!)  I do not remember my father pinching my sisters arm to get her to smile for a photo at her communion but I’m in the picture, right beside her, so it happened. (I was smiling broadly, by the way. She was kind of cringing) I have vague recollections of jumping on my parents bed, falling off and breaking my leg. (I got a new doll for that) I also remember placing my palm flat on a hot iron (I was an inquisitive child) That one scored me a whole pack of Juicy Fruit gum!

Is it a matter of birth order? The eldest participated in more, saw more and apparently remember more, or is it what we choose to remember?

My brother and sister recall the good times, but they also recall clearly, the bad times, but then they were that much older and saw the hardships. Could it be that by the time I came along things had improved (The alternative here is that I was an airhead, totally oblivious to life happening around me)  or could we be capable of selective memory? I don’t like to dwell on the dark side of anything in life, even to this day. It’s not that I deny the existence of hardships – they occur in every home, every life. I face what I need to, deal with it and move on. I don’t like to return to unpleasant memories because they haunt me.

My siblings are much more practical than I. They see all the good and the bad in the world and manage it realistically, i.e., they don’t internalize the negative emotion, rather they put it into perspective. They also don’t  gloss over harsh realities whereas I would prefer to block them out. If it’s ugly and I can avoid it, I will. Is that a bad thing? I hope not, cause it’s unlikely I can change at this point in my life….and I’m not sure that I’d want to.

I think it’s fair to say that in my lifetime I didn’t encounter much in the way of hardship, not anything serious anyway. I did not live through war, or famine, or depression, or drought. I did not suffer any form of abuse (although I still maintain making me eat liver was harsh and unnecessary)

If blocking out negative memories is in any way harmful, someone please tell me, until then,,,,,, ignorance is bliss……..and I’m happy because life is good!

Happy child.jpg

One thought on “Memory is selective

  1. Fascinating Emily. I completely understand where you are coming from on this one. I have 2 sisters and I can honestly say that the three of us have some very different memories of our childhood. I have always attributed this to the fact that we are completely different personalities which explains to me why we all saw things differently. But isn’t that what makes us all unique. Great subject. Maggie

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