Memory



2008 180

Originally uploaded by nonsonoitaliana

Anyone knows that memory is a fickle and mysterious thing.

I watched my grandmother age, and in particular I watched her memory fade and warp and finally morph into something completely different than what her life had been.

I hear my parents complaining about the rounded, blunt edges of their memories now.

And I remember when I first began to notice, in late elementary school, that I couldn’t remember details of my early childhood, or that those details that I did remember were just plain wrong.

However, nothing prepared me for the profound loss I am experiencing since moving abroad. Vast swaths of my memory have just disappeared, leaving nothing, not even whispers of what once was.

I had already noticed that I couldn’t remember events, sequences, conversations with the clarity I was accustomed to before I went home last year. But in Cleveland, surrounded by old friends discussing the past, I began to notice real holes, gaping holes, as over and over again I couldn’t recall what they were talking about. And someone (I can’t remember who) suggested maybe it was because I wasn’t there anymore, wasn’t surrounded by the familiar, every day or week passing by landmarks in the terrain of my memory.

Back here in Italy I recently fielded this idea to my friend Rut, also originally from somewhere else, and other immigrants, and they all agreed: not only have we lost our homes, we have lost our past.

Not all of it certainly. But I do think that those who leave home to live in a very different place, speaking a different language, experiencing a different reality, they lose a lot of what made them who they are. They still are who they are, but the road traveled to arrive there starts to fade.

It can be disorientating, not to say desperately sad and painful.
Going back helps, but doesn’t repair the damage.
And I think the fact that I am aware of this now helps, too.
And talking with other immigrants helps a lot, not to bring back the memories, but as a sort of validation that yes, we were somebody before we came here; our lives didn’t start the moment we stepped over the border.

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3 Responses to “Memory”

  1. anna Says:

    this entry makes me really effing sad

  2. Jack del Gas Says:

    It’s just an evidence that proves that past is not only past. Time is something more complicated and past changes with our present and future expectations. Even if it’s something difficult to think, past changes with our present life and our memory is something in becoming (I don’t konow if you say like this in English). Pretty philosophical, isn’t it? We will speak about it in our conversation…
    J

  3. alixhtravis Says:

    I view it a little bit differently.

    One is never now “who they were”. We are always changing no matter where we are at present or where we have been. Yes, moving away, speaking another language, adapting to a new culture makes one a different person, not only the person you were yesterday but a person different from the one one would have become had one had stayed put. You never were that person.

    I read in the NYTimes Science section recently a piece on why time speeds up as we age, or (my words) why we forget. As we age there is soooo much more happening in our lives; the memories are crowded, time flies by. There is so much more competing for our attention that some memories are pushed aside. As small children when it seemed an eternity between visits from Santa Claus there was not as much competing for our attention, life was slower.

    I sometimes yearn for the person I might have been if I had remained where I spent my youth, but I did not and I would not relinquish any of those subsequent experiences either. 6 of one and 1/2 dozen of the other!

    love, mother

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