I remember the summer between high school graduation and my first year of University. Packing up my room was an emotional overhaul. My aunt came over to help me sort through the memorabilia of an entire childhood existence. It was a ritual of leaving my past and cleaving to my future. Derrida writes about this. He says that ‘archive is not a question of the past, it is a question of the future...” I don’t get it yet, but I am learning.
What happens when we find out that our memory is not so accurate as we had hoped? My imaginary world fell apart when I heard The News. I say ‘imaginary’ because that’s what it was. Apparently my facts were never right to begin with.
My family loves to tell stories. I know I’m a story teller, because almost every time I start a conversation I say “I have a story to share....” Growing up with relatives as neighbors, I heard some stories a hundred times over, but they never grew old.
There used to be pigs on the farm. My mom hated feeding the pigs. She would take the slop down to the pig pen and throw it over the fence because the pigs would snuffle at her nylons and rip them. She also hated frogs. One day her sister convinced her to pet a frog. Aunt Holly spent several hours trying to catch the little guy. She ran it to my mom and thrust it in her face. My mom screamed and the frog got away. Aunt Holly was furious at the futility of her labor.
These are stories I grew up with. But I guarantee you that most of them are completely skewed and I unconsciously made up a few things along the way.
Mom always wanted me to paint a portrait of my great-grandma. I constantly put it aside. I wasn’t talented enough to accurately render her physical likeness and her personality, so I didn’t even bother. Until two months ago. My unconventional portrait is made up of old reference photos, scraps of memory, materials, and plenty of legend. I wonder if we were to meet our deceased love ones decades later, would we be disappointed by how normal they are? Legend builds up over time, until eventually you have little more that the faint idea of a person with lots of embellished stories and emotions.