Imperfect Memories

If you knew you only had a few days or a few months to live, what would you do with that time?  This thought has been on my mind lately and I can’t figure out if it is something to seriously consider or if it is an excuse to not do other things that wait for my attention.  But by devoting time for this one can only hope that one thing will lead to another and I do like to multitask so…

I am a few months short of my sixty-fifth birthday and realize that just having outlived my parents I am not sure of my own longevity.  It’s hard to beat your genes.  Who would I like to read this story?  Certainly my children and the rest of my family but there is a danger in sharing with my brothers and sisters as I have discovered each of us has a different memory of a past event which just goes to prove the old idea of the truth being completely subjective and perhaps nonexistent in its purest form.  I know I have posted on this blog memories of events and my brother and sister have pointed out a different or corrected version (very kindly of course).  This is probably a good thing as they are younger than I so perhaps their minds are a little fresher.

Distant memory in particular is colored by what we think happened and our ensuing experiences and emotions.  And of course we choose to believe or remember a specific thing or occurrence according to our own mind.  One of my brothers believes my grandparents did not own their home because he remembers seeing a box with rent receipts after they died.  He may have forgotten that at least one offspring and family lived in that house with them continually for many years and yes they all paid rent.  That included my parents, two aunts and several others for shorter periods of time.  So he, my brother, would swear on a stack of bibles that they never owned that house even though the family sold it after Grandpa’s death.  Fortunately my one living paternal aunt can verify this and explains that she was fourteen when she had to quit school to stay home and look after her younger brother and sister so my grandmother could get a job to make money to buy the house which they purchased when my dad was overseas.

This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid reading famous people’s autobiographies – just too subjective.  So if you are reading this little story and share memories of the past with me, please understand this is my recollection and while I will strive to be accurate it just can’t be more than my own mind and heart will let it be.

My dad joined the army when he was seventeen, and yes he was underage, but it was 1941 and the Second World War was raging so a lot of youngsters were allowed to enlist as age wasn’t questioned much.  We have a couple of letters  that he sent home when he was posted overseas and one letter from his younger brother who I think was only fourteen at the time.  I will dig them out and scan them for the record and will tell you more about that at a later time.

I think now and then about the sort of things I want my children to know about such as old wood stoves that baked pies and cakes and wonderful homemade stews and soups, old dial black telephones and numbers that began with words or initials.  Our phone number was Sherwood 2—2 and the Sherwood was dialed as SH so the number in fact was 742—-2.  (Naturally I have the exact number in the family version but it would not be a good idea to publish it in the event someone else now has that number).  Everyone in those days was on a party line, so if you wanted to make a call you first picked up the receiver to be sure the line was clear.  Mind you at any time a neighbor could pick up their phone and listen in and if they were skilled at making the click very quiet you would never know.  I suppose if you were of the paraniod persuasion clicks were heard when no one was there.  People did not use the phone unless it was necessary.  There was no idle chatter.  There was also no such thing as cordless, caller ID, or speaker.  Oh, and no such thing as colors.  It was black and very heavy as I remember.

The one below is exactly like ours and everyone else’s for that matter.


There were no phone jacks that lines plugged into so if the cord was snapped from the wall you had to call the phone company to come in and repair it.  Now I must qualify the not using the phone unless it was necessary part.  I do recall vaguely the odd Saturday when our parents were out making prank calls that generally went, “Hello, is your refrigerator running? Well you better run after it!”  We just dialed numbers randomly and have no idea who we contacted and they sure could not trace us.

It is my intention not to reveal any family skeletons as such; at least I think I will not, as many of those old bones are not mine to share.  Neither will I necessarily whitewash things but the memories are pretty happy nostalgic ones.  I guess we will just have to wait and see as layers of the dusty past are removed.  I have also decided that I will not try to stay on a chronological path as memories seem to pop up in a rather irregular fashion and that is how they will be recorded.  I’ve tried the chronological thing in the last couple of years and it drives me bonkers.

My folks were married in Scotland and she being a war bride followed him here to Kitchener Ontario a few months after his return.  I have spoken with my aunt who is my mom’s younger sister and the last of that family of siblings and my aunt who is the last remaining member of my dad’s siblings and have asked as many questions as I could about their youth and what they remember.  As both are well into their eighties the memories are very subjective but amazingly detailed.  Besides what are memories if they have to be objective?  The full flavor of life is in the personal bias of it all.  That’s where the fun comes in!

Well now that I have that all straightened out I shall ponder a little more and then get down to some real work.  I won’t share every record of history with you but when the little oddities such as telephones pop up I will keep you in mind.


28 thoughts on “Imperfect Memories”

  1. We had a party line when I was a child. Thanks for reminding me of how I could listen to the neighborhood gossip I picked the phone up quietly enough. 🙂

  2. I truly enjoy reading Georgette’s family stories, and I look forward to reading your stories, Chris.
    My Dad ran away from home and joined the army. He fought in the Korean war. He lied about his age, as I believe he was 17, too. His family is limited and the stories are scattered, which I think is too bad.

    Here’s to your next post!

    1. See how much you already know about your Dad..just the idea of running away and joining the army. Recruitment was pretty glamorized back then, maybee it still is Lenore. Our previously large family has become way too limited due to age also.

  3. The first phone we ever had was a party line – I remember it well!
    We all remember past times from OUR point of view – others may have seen it differently from THEIR point of view, and so we get differing versions of the same thing.You have explained it well here Chris.
    I love hearing family stories from the past, they are always so interesting to the reader!
    A fellow blogger said they would love to hear about the time I lived in Singapore when I was a
    teenager, but I said it wouldn’t be very interesting to my readers; she said not so! Other peoples’ lives are always interesting!

    1. Wow Barb I think it would be wonderful to hear about living in Singapore! Its amazing how interesting others’ memories and experiences are. You better get ready to do some remembering girl, I am waiting with baited breath!

  4. “The full flavor of life is in the personal bias of it all.”. Here’s to additional flavorful memories 🙂

  5. I like that I’m writing family stories at my site. It’s interesting that as soon as you publish it, engrave it in stone as it were, all of a sudden what folks hadn’t remembered, thought to remember, or cared to remember comes in sharper focus….theirs. I love that I’m doing this because then even more stories bubble up…some much more interesting than others.

  6. I’m the youngest in a family of five kids. All of us have differing memories. We realize this and have learned to just enjoy the others’ versions. We know it’s simply perception. It’s actually fascinating to see what the other kids remember and how. Some of it is hilarious.

    My oldest sister said to me one day, “You had the best part of mom and dad. I had them when they were always working and worrying about money.”

    “My sister, I replied, “what you’ve just said confirms they didn’t change one iota!”

    However, how they lived and how hard they worked was completely different in each of our two upbringings. Who knows who got the “better part” of our parents? I never knew my parents as “young” people. They were always old to me – the same age as my friends’ grandparents.

    So I hope your family can accept that perceptions are different and everybody is entitled to theirs. I hope you don’t fall into the trap of thinking, as the eldest, you have to be perfect and remember everything. Too many pitfalls, potholes and arrows to that, Chris!

    1. Yes like you I think I love the idea of differing perceptions. You were the youngest of five and I was the oldest of five. What is so neat is that the youngest child, my sister Jane is now my best friend and she can tell me so much more about my folks as she was at home long after I had gone to Nursing. It makes for a perfect blend.

  7. I love hearing about people’s pasts. You are so right, my brother remembers things quite different from me (but he always did get things mixed up!) My German Canadian family comes with great stories and I am lucky have my grandmother’s sister still with us, who at 93 has a sharp memory. I wrote about my grandfather’s family in a blog and plan to write more about these incredibly resilient folks. I look forward to hearing more of your memories.

  8. It is so hard for people to understand that perception is part of all of our truths! I love the way you illustrated this. And welcome back!

  9. Yes Chris, memories are subjective. Sometimes I wonder if my sisters and I grew up in the same house, our memories of events offer differ significantly. Thanks for this post.

  10. In this age of technology, we don’t need to remember details anymore. My phone has the names numbers and addresses of my friends and family programmed into its computer chips. I dont remember the name of the place i had sinner this weekend, but the internwt will tell me in a few simple clicks. I remember my childhood phone number but sometimes forget current details that technology does for me now. So, I submit this question to you – are we … society as a whole…. Forgetting HOW to remember?

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