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Incomplete memoir (Part 6)

About five years ago I started writing a memoir. I kept at it for a little while, writing about 1,000 words a day for a few weeks. I hadn’t yet been to therapy and there were many things I didn’t really understand about my life, but I still find the unfinished memoir to be a fascinating look into my own past. I’ve decided to post it in installments here, with only a few redactions. You can find the other sections by clicking the Memoir category.

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Jen and the boys and I went for a walk the other day in Corbett’s Glen, a secluded bit of woodland paradise about 100 yards from two of Rochester’s three major expressways. On the walk with us were two friends and their young daughter.

Corbett’s Glen started out as a Native American trail; evolved into a train track that carried the body of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln as he moved toward his final resting place; and ended up as a very naturalistic town park with a creek and the odd bit of private land. As you pass through a long tunnel under the road and enter the glen, you’re greeted by an expanse of lawn leading to a lovely home that’s for sale as I write this. Ringing the lawn is a model train track, although our friends said the train stopped running years ago.

Toward the end of the walk, we were standing around watching the kids play and talking about how they probably won’t remember any of this day. Which is strange to think about, because the day will be much more solidly imprinted for us adults. For the kids, though, it will be at best a misty and brief memory.

That got me thinking about my own childhood. If I assembled all the footage in my brain from the first, say, 10 years of my life, I’d have a film about 20 minutes long. I can barely remember anything.

That’s always seemed strange to me. Wrong, somehow. My wife can recount stories of afternoons spent listening to the radio with her friends and choreographing dances to the soundtrack of Grease or the latest hit from Diane Summer. My cousin Lynne can remember minute details about dozens of play dates we spent together. My mom seems to remember who lived in every house in Lenox, and she has a story about all of them.

Not me, though. My childhood memories could fit comfortably on a DVD.

Over the years, I’ve developed and discarded and reused quite a few explanations for why I can’t recall very much at all. For example, maybe it was because I moved so many times as a kid, and never really developed a static background image in front of which to set my childhood memories. Or maybe it was that I was always the new kid, and had so few friends throughout the majority of my school life. Or maybe I was a fairly miserable child, and I’m trying to block that out. Or maybe I just didn’t do very much, so there’s not much to remember. I don’t know which, if any, of these theories to believe. Maybe I’m just like everybody else, but they’re better at making up the childhoods they believe they should have lived.

Published in Memoir


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