I completed a final draft of a blog post (I had started it as a Word doc) last week about how our most vivid memories come from our childhoods. I explored why that might be. I fired up my laptop to post the blog the next day, but was stalled as my computer ran updates. Twenty minutes later, I logged in. Where was my document “post” on the home screen? Where was my work-in-progress novel, too?
I searched for the two missing documents in my laptop’s innards as best as my tech savvy allowed, calling all files to show themselves with a “modified date” of that Friday I had last worked on them. My computer told me I hadn’t logged a word on that day when in fact I had edited 847 words on that document days previously and cranked out two pivotal scenes on two pages of my novel. It was as if that morning’s writing was erased from time, and not just from my computer!
I was in disbelief that my documents disappeared. And I was angry because my deliberate nature of saving and backing up work, for some unknown reason, didn’t work. I mourned for my exact words that were gone forever, feeling a sense of loss when I had prided myself on writing about childhood memories and constructing dialogue to create important scenes. The work I had written was a one-of-a-kind, an original I couldn’t reproduce.
When I tried to recall what was my impetus for writing that now gone post, I remembered I had been reading The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. A line I had read in a paragraph in her book, “This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood,” triggered a domino of thoughts, an “aha” moment as I could relate to what Dillard was saying; my memoir, Under the Birch Tree, begins with my strongest memories from childhood and becomes the woven thread through the story.
I remember a simplest childhood memory when my father tried to teach me how to mow the lawn, of which today I find puzzling as my father wasn’t much an instructor but a good finger-pointer at what we needed to figure out ourselves. I was maybe ten or eleven. I remember taking care in making straight lines in the green carpet and then looking over my shoulder to check my work. My sense of confidence, because I figured out how to turn the lawn mower on, and how to get it to move forward, and my sense of accomplishment of cutting the grass, stayed with me for many more mows thereafter.
Our ideas and thoughts are fleeting but there is something that seems to linger. From a childhood memory, to overhearing a contentious exchange between a man and a woman, (from which spurred my lost dialogue-driven scenes), we may not be able to remember the details of what came to mind, but what seems to remain is the impression it made and the emotions we experienced.
There will always be another post to write and perhaps those two lost scenes just weren’t meant to be. But I learned how our thoughts are never really erased from time as we have the resulting emotions and feelings that stay with us.
4 thoughts on “gone without a trace”
Great to see you this morning. What a beautiful reflection on a total bummer of a situation! This reminds me of a conversation Bhairvi and I recently had about dreams – about how they impact our emotions, even if we don’t remember what they were actually about. Same with memories I believe! I’m so sorry about your lost work. ❤️
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Thanks Erin, I’m still working through it!
Childhood memories bubble up in the most unexpected moments. Then the challenge (and the pleasure) is to consider what prompts these regurgitations and why the brain has chosen to store this nugget in the first place. The first pass is the memory itself, direct from childhood, the voice of innocence. As I turn it over in my mind I put the memory into a larger context, add the voice of experience to create a more nuanced and fully realized scene. Why was it that I recall so distinctly that Good Humor man making deliveries at the neighbors house? Was it really about the ready access to Good Humors, or was it a first brush with class distinction, neighbors who had the wherewithall to have a Good Humor man making house calls versus our household where such a treat was considered an infrequent luxury?
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Thanks, Liza! Great example using the Good Humor man to illustrate our childhood memories in a larger perspective.