Friday, May 8, 2009

An Unreliable Narrator

WonderWife™ and I have a long-standing private joke. Years ago, we overheard some off-handed remark made by a little girl and we thought it was funny. Since then, we have lobbed this line at each other, knowing it will always earn a smile from the other. What the girl said isn’t important. The important part, for this story anyway, is where we heard it. Or at least where we think we heard it.

I recently discovered that WonderWife™ and I have different recollections of where the joke originated. Completely different. We both agree that it was on our honeymoon and that the little girl was at the pool of the hotel. But on our trip, we stayed at two different hotels on two different islands of Hawaii and we each have a memory of this taking place at a different hotel.

My memory of the event is clear. I recall the pool and where the girl was in the pool. I remember details like where I was in relation to the girl. The girl was there with her brother and was taking to her father. I remember WW™ beside me, laughing as we walked past. Admittedly I have a poor memory, so the fact that I can conjure this up with crystal clarity speaks volumes. However, WW’s™ competing memories of the event are equally as vivid.

So we have one story with two completely different versions of how it happened. The plain truth is that one of us is wrong. One of our memories is a total fabrication. One of our brains is deceiving us. Yet there is no way we will ever know the truth. It’s like a real life version of Rashomon.

It’s startling to realize that just because a memory is vivid, doesn’t mean it’s true. Our brains are the most unreliable of narrators.

Periodically, somebody will ask me why I write this blog. I’ve never had a satisfying answer…until now. I love to write and I adore the small audience of people who are kind enough to read my words. But the reason why I write is so I can capture the moments of my life and the lives of my kids. Because I know that just because you remember something, it doesn’t mean that it actually happened.


SciFi Dad said...

Try to recall the event at the other hotel. Can you do it? If so, then your wife is probably right. If not, then you're right.

Done and done.

Blogging Mama Andrea said...

I'd say the most important part is that you remember being there together and what was said. If that makes you smile and share a secret moment then that's what matters.

Sadie said...

I do the same thing. I used to think when the kids were young that I didn't need to write anything down - like somehow I would always magically remember.

The truth is, I embarrass the hell out of myself all the time with my poor memory. The other day, I called one of my Girl Scout's dads "Bob" when his name is Larry. If I can't remember something simple, like Larry's name, how the hell am I going to remember that yesterday the kids both lost a single shoe - each - in one day. And the story is funny. I really need to write that one down.

ZenMom said...

OK, first: The minute I read the title of this post, I thought, "Oh cool, like 'Rashomon'".

So, dude, get outta my head! :)

Second: Your wife is right.


Just go with it. :)

Your escalator operator said...

Great post:
1, Good to know someone else with an infallible memory has the same deal with clearly remembering the exact details of an event or conversation and being completely, um, wrong-ish?
2, There are a couple of reasons I do the blog thang, but you hit on one that probably is behind a lot of what I write.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Why are you guys all jumping to the conclusion that I am the one who is wrong?

Lady Mama said...

Some memories have a way of fabricating their own story. Happens to me all the time. And then what usually happens is I argue relentlessly with my husband that I am right. And usually I'm not because his memory is way better than mine.

Also, I too write to capture memories. I think it's a lovely way to remember.

RHW said...

It's remarkably easy to create false memories - so easy it's scary. I know many people, myself included, have memories from childhood that are really false ones created from other people's descriptions of events. Mine is about falling down some stairs. Some people are more prone to doing this than others.

Interestingly, I have both an excellent memory - never had to study much to pass tests - and am also "highly suggestible" (according to psych experiments I participated in throughout university).

One dead giveaway regarding false memory is perspective. If you can see yourself in the memory (without a mirror being there too), it's at least partially false.

blissfully caffeinated said...

Well, I have to side with your wife on this one. Because of solidarity and all that. Plus women are smarter.

It's so funny, my husband and I have a laugh trigger that means nothing to anyone but us and if I were to try to explain it to you or anyone else, you and those other people would think I was crazy, but all we have to say to each other is "Fro Dog" and we both fall to the ground laughing.

Evie_Edlund said...

It did happen, just not nessicarily with the window dressing one of you recalls.

Michele said...

This is so interesting. I just listened to a speaker the other day talking about how our brains process memory. According to this doctor (in, I can't remember, HA, what field of medicine)you and your wife can be both right and wrong. Sorry to go all academia.

SweetPeaSurry said...

It always freaks me out when people call me out as a 'reader' user in their blogpost ... sheesh. 1 blog read ... 156 more posts to go!!! YAY

I just start making up the meat and potatoes of stories now, I've killed all the brain cells that might potentially have the 'actual' story in them.

My dad always says ... 'as long as the story is mostly true and the props are mostly real, you're golden'


Melinda said...

I totally get what you're saying, I think it's a great reason to blog--to remember. I think since starting blogging, the stories I've blogged stand out much more than others, it does something to write it down!