I’m re-reading a memoir (Boff Whalley’s Footnotes, if you really want to know) and I’m amazed, as I always am, at the way some people can look back and remember the details of so many specific instances in their lives. Some I recall with absolute clarity, like when my son, just over an hour old, wrapped his tiny fingers around my thumb and I just felt absolute love. But with so many things the colours of my memory are blurred around the edges.
What does stay in my mind is the way things made me feel. Driving up I-75 in Ohio, a sunny spring day, the window rolled down, my leather jacket thrown on the back seat, Springsteen on the radio, I felt as if I understood America for the first time, that it was under my skin and in my heart.
All this has left me thinking about the way we see our pasts. When we look back, how do we perceive it? For instance, I know exactly when and where I first really heard John Martyn’s music, an event that made me an instant fan, as I still am. I was 18, in the music room at my girlfriend’s house and we were sitting on a white shag rug. All the other details are gone. Was there a piano in there? A wall of sheet music? What did she look like? Once that music curled around me, it was as if nothing else in the moment mattered?
So, perhaps the question I’m really asking is: am I lacking something, not remembering everything? It’s perhaps a failing as a writer, although novelists do make stuff up (for all you know, the incidents I’ve described could be straight out of my imagination). But what about you? How do you remember things – and how far back do you remember them?