~ Sometimes I have these moments, practically meditative in nature, where I will commit myself to brainstorming random and especially specific moments from my past. Memories remembered. They are recalled with the visceral tinges of the strongest kind of nostalgia: from that of my childhood.
Memorable images, words, moments, from my early years, fly into my head unbidden. They aren’t necessarily daydreams. I don’t do it during certain times of day or times in my life, and I don’t really know why I do it, or if I like doing it. It just happens naturally, seemingly randomly. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s vividly mind-seizing.
It can be surreal. There is a paradox of the free flow of memory and attempted remembrance of purportedly forgotten moments. And then there is razor specifism, wherein I drill down to the moments themselves as if I was searching for them exactly. Soon enough, my daydream is filled with stark imagery of a definitive moment from my childhood. Maybe I am not remembering them as clearly as I think. My brain is simply reconstructing a tinge of memory into a fully fledged, scenic vista. Maybe. Either way, it’s rather incredible.
They aren’t especially good or bad memories, but they are specific. I will remember a particular board game session with family. Walking in the woods with my cousin. Wrestling with my brother. Watching an episode of The Twilight Zone and then not being able to fall asleep thinking about it. Or a time eating dinner with my family and feeling silently angry at my brother or my mother. I will remember a time playing basketball in my front yard when it was hailing and I was feeling the manic need to get some shots up. Or the times when I would try a new form with my hands and arms for my jumper — during a cold night after watching a certain professional player’s motion (Marbury). I can recall this certain way my hands were positioned on the ball, and being disappointed I couldn’t immediately recreate it on every shot attempt. Or the times when I couldn’t fall asleep in the top bunk (after I finally got it from my bro) and I would let my overactive imagination dream up horrific monsters coming out of my closet or animated toys climbing up the ladder to my bed. I’ll remember afternoons watching cartoons or playing video games — specific episodes and levels. Or times I was over at friend’s and it was lightning outside and we were listening to Master of Puppets on full blast and playing NFL Street or Halo or Magic. Or when I was at my childhood friend’s house pulling an all-nighter with a bunch of other friends I don’t remember the names of and never saw again and I spent all night playing Puzzle Quest (oh yes) on my Nintendo DS, never ever getting tired… or all the times walking amidst the familiar suburban jungle, or running around neighborhoods pranking houses, or watching endless hours of Toonami after school, wishing to become a Super Saiyan, or lowering the goal for dunk contests and trying to mimic VC, or walking my childhood dog that one time, or listening to hardcore rap at daycare with some of the other kids years before I could truly understand it, or the infinite elementary school recess moments, or Pokemon, Final Fantasy, Advance Wars, Blitz, Morrowind, Oblivion, or watching my brother play through Ocarina of Time on N64, with stars in my eyes and the eternally salient sounds of the Forest Temple echoing in my mindspace for decades to come…
Often I won’t stop with just one childhood or adolescent memory brought back. I will go through several, at a breakneck pace, before letting myself return to reality. I shift through them like screens from the Minority Report machine. They move past me faster than I should be able to register them, but I do. I don’t even know how to describe the feeling. And it’s not as if I have an especially photographic memory of my personal experiences. I have a good memory for things that are important or that I think matter to me, in some way. Thus, we could conclude that all these vivid memories are vital. But on the surface, for many of them that’s not the case — they are truly small, random, seemingly inconsequential moments or passive experiences which looking back I would think probably wouldn’t make the cut for my childhood’s highlight reel. However, I suppose like in our dreams, the subconscious is taking in more stimuli and passive experience than our brains really consciously process and it’s all ultimately stored somewhere. Much like entire dreams can be built from a chance encounter with a stranger or random sensory experience during the day, one of these childhood flashbacks can form from the unlikeliest of places within our past.
I do wonder if other people have a similar experience or are able to recall such randomly vivid memories from their own childhood, and with the specific accuracy I seem to be able to draw them in my mind’s eye. It’s not difficult to remember, generally, the way things were and what you thought & felt about your life, friends and the world as a kid. But to recall very specific moments, it’s challenging and potentially exhilarating. It can also be maddening if embarrassing or contributorily saddening depending on the memory. I have many memories from all three classes and others.
I think my point is, and probably why I do this subconsciously — these memories make me feel more alive, with a vibrant historical perspective (even within my own short life) and a real, genuine past that has delivered my present moment. These moments have helped to shape my complex personhood and provide an emotional frame of reference for my current persona. This is incredibly important to me. And it’s not just nostalgia, it is much more than that. My past is the foundation for what comes now. If there is something I know about my own self at this point, it’s that I love chronicling things, seeing the progression and the passage of time work upon them. I cherish the moments along the way to the completion of art, and persons; it’s all becoming part of a past you can look back on. Why would my memories of my own chronicle be any different? ~
~ After considering this whole concept once more, I realize the movie Inside Out, captures this incredibly well. It is present in the film’s metaphorical projection of memories & emotions ‘growing up’ in the young girl protagonist by becoming mixed between happiness and sadness. As she grows up and experiences emotion conflicts, there’s an increasing complexity of emotion developing within her. This is a very similar concept to how I see the progression of my own memories and emotions from childhood. This is part of the reason that movie hit me so hard and resonated. It’s natural – and vital – that we all look back on memories with a certain emotional color which changes. Cornerstone memories from childhood will always become more rich, more complex, more full of personal efficacy as we grow alongside our increasing history of experience.
Like Kierkegaard said,
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. ~
~ art source // art by Tim McDonagh