faded memories of sisters

The sisters don’t remember where the two dressed up sisters were going, but they all remember that the sister in the middle was going on a blind date–with the man she would marry.

Three sisters recall a faded memory from over 50 years ago. Each recalls a slightly different circumstance. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What’s the truth?

Memories can be ethereal. It can be hard to get all the details right. That doesn’t mean you can’t write about them.

Put Faded Memories in Context

We often try even especially hard to capture those memories  that are less accessible. Perhaps that is what makes faded memories even more precious –They’re like a prodigal son of the mind.

Many times faded memories begin to make sense when put in context. They only seem to have faded. Writing down the gist of what we remember can spark recall about the rest of the situation. As you look back at a photo or souvenir, you remember the context. Suddenly long (almost) forgotten memories come rushing back to the surface. (See “6 Fun Ways to Trigger Summer Memories”  and “An Actual Treasure Chest of Memories” for other ways to spark recall).

When you brainstorm about memories that don’t quite come together, focus on their context. Even if you can’t remember all the details, you can preserve the fragments of memories that you have for a given situation. For instance, I can hardly remember the first house my family lived in. What I can describe, however, is my memory of how the checkerboard kitchen floor became my hopscotch area, especially when the hide-away table was folded up.

Emotional Truth

As my sister and I were growing up, our mother was hospitalized several times. My sister remembers that I was a total brat when Mom was in the hospital. I remember no such thing. Actually, I think my sister is wrong. (I probably just failed to respond to her big-sister bossiness.) But, that doesn’t mean we’re not both telling the same emotional truth. When mom was in the hospital, things were different and scary. We gave Daddy credit for trying, but things weren’t the same.

Often faded memories that differ greatly in details tell the same emotional truths. Regardless of discrepancies, they tell stories of being loved, family bonds, or heartbreak.

Faded memories of Jekyll Island

I barely remember going to Jekyll Island as a kid, but I do remember being excited about it. Looking at photos, I realize why.

When you’re having trouble remembering all the details of a memory, focus on the emotional truths that the story has. What did the episode mean to you at the time? What meaning does it have for you now? Looking back with such a perspective can bring faded memories to life.

Faded Memories versus Technicolor

Shortly after my parents died, I made a very comforting discovery about my childhood memories. At first, it bothered me that some memories were very clear while others were almost out of grasp of my recall. Then I realized that it was mostly the unpleasant episodes that were hard to recall. The faded memories are of bickering, scoldings, frustrations,  etc. Perhaps they faded because they had no emotional significance to me. My childhood memories of my parents that remain vivid are the ones that truly matter. They are the moments that made me feel most loved, trusted, or that my parents were proud of me. They are moments of giggles, exploring, snarky jokes, and heart to heart talks.

When memories remain stubbornly vague, you can write about why you think they remain faded. You can even contrast your faded memories with the stories that you remember vividly. An example of this is “My Grandpa Wilkinson.”

faded memories in old photographs

Post-surgical pose: I have no idea why Daddy and the cat were sitting outside on an oil spot in the driveway, but they both look content.

Faded Memories in Photos

Sometimes we run across a photograph for which we have no memory. As discussed in “Captioning the Past: Using Captions to Tell Stories,” one option is to be creative with your captioning. There’s also nothing wrong with simply wondering.

How do you capture faded memories?

© Laura Hedgecock 2013

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