Friday, 25 February 2011

My version of the truth

Many years ago, during a trip back to my native Scotland, I decided to visit some of the houses I’d lived in as a child. One of my sisters decided it would be fun to accompany me on my trip down memory lane, so I bundled my infant son  into the back of a hire car and headed off down the road, my sister with an old creased map in her hand, and me with a lot of old memories swirling in my head.

Half an hour later, I was looking out the car window at a cold, grey farm cottage. The broken windows and the peeling paint on the front door told me that it had been abandoned many years before. I half closed my eyes and tried to conjure up an image of what it had looked like when there were six people crammed into that one-bedroom house. The years slowly slipped away, and I was transported back in time, to when I was five years old.

We got out of the car, walked across to one of the windows and looked into the gloomy interior.

“Do you remember that horrible purple jumpsuit I used to have?” I said to my sister. “I remember swinging on it from a clothes hook in the coat cupboard. I had to stop when I almost tore the hood off.”

“The purple jumpsuit wasn’t yours, it was mine!” she said, in an unusually possessive tone. “And I was the one who used to swing from it.”

“I think you’re mistaken. It was mine.”

“I’m not mistaken,” she said, forcing a smile.

“Look! The old tree’s still there,” I said, pointing to a sycamore at the side of the house in an attempt to change the subject. “Do you remember when I fell out of it and gouged a huge hole in my leg?”

“Are you sure that wasn’t David?” she said, referring to my brother.

“No it was definitely me,” I said, as I rolled up my trouser leg to show her the old scar on my shin.

“You didn’t get that from the tree; you got it falling off a bike,” she said.

The excitement that I’d felt as we were driving up to the house began seeping out of my body; it trickled down to my shoes and then disappeared into the dark earth beneath my feet.

We drove to our second house in silence.

When we got out to inspect the newly renovated bungalow that looked nothing like the old house we’d lived in, I felt the cold wind tugging at my inadequate jacket. We stood there in silence for a few minutes, neither of us attempting to translate our memories into words for fear that the other would write them off as false.

That was twenty years ago. Now, as I attempt to write a memoir about my childhood in rural Scotland, I’m forced to re-examine my memories of those early years. I’ve often asked myself what I should do about those competing stories.

After much soul searching and talking with other people about their childhood memories, I now know that each person’s truth is unique. We all think differently and have our own version of the truth.

I can only be true to my version.  


O_o | K. Wei Xing said...

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. XD

Lots of luck on your latest project! Your wonderful writings always cheers me up after a stressful week. =)

Mary Schneider said...

Hey there, Thanks for good wishes. Your words are really encouragiing.

Craig said...

I really enjoyed this post, as it brought back many (false?) memories for me.

Memory plays such an important part in our lives, and I suspect the older you get, the more you use your memory (I am old, so I use my memory a lot!). The trouble is, the older you get, the more your memories fail you. If I play the card game 'memory' with my 11 year old daughter, it is very clear who has the ascendency, and it's not me.

We fit so much into our lives, we cannot possibly remember everything, so our brains 'weed out' most things, and leave you with a sprinkling of selected memories from which to choose. However, what's to say that each of those selected memories are accurate?

Like you Mary, I have quite a different version of parts of my childhood locked inside my head when compared to my brothers. Makes you wonder what really happened doesn't it. As you say though, at the end of the day, you have to be true to yourself.

Thanks for sharing your memories with us, and keep up the great work.


Yusuf Martin said...

whenever I have decided to 'return' to places or people from my past it has inevitably been so different, smaller normally, but different.The past certainly is a foreign country and I no longer have the patience to queue for the visa.

scotty McLaughlin said...

Mary .Dear Sis. I never went down memory lane with you and Trish that day as I just arrived in Jedbugh the night before from Ontario Canada .Your niece was 8 at the time was out of sorts lacking sleep.
For the jumpsuit I do not recall that item of clothing. Trish had a pair of purple overalls .
For the tree you jump out off you never got the gash in you leg from that stunt you hurt your ankle .
For the gash in your leg that could have happened one of two ways .
1, when we lived at carlowly? (Out side of Kirklisten).Mum was in hospital having Linda or Shirley.We were playing in the garden of the people that used to live at the end of the row .You seen a cat walking over a glass frame you decided to walk on it.the cat was lighter than you .Your leg went right through the glass frame ending up with the big gash .
2, When we lived at Bangour .You and I playing out side in the rain . Swining on a cord tied to a high limb (high to us )trying to swing over a little burn to land on the other side . ( jumping off the top of an old rusted metal bunk bed frame).With everything being wet you landed in the burn braking your leg and the bone was protruding out . That also could cause the gash in your leg .Not the jumping out of the tree .Your sis Cath .xx
ps NO wonder I hate the sight of blood !