I was very happy to read about a new study that has found that any memories of early childhood are likely fictional. This finding will help me prove that the memory banks of two of my older siblings are not as reliable as they claim.
Over the years, this pair has tried to make the family believe that they can remember things that happened when they were barely two years old.
What makes their stories suspect is the vivid detail they provide with each narrative as though their photographic memory clicked image after image and then filed these away in neat boxes.
This “skill” was difficult to digest by someone like me whose ability to recall events and experiences from the dim past was severely hampered by a fog that descended in my brain as soon as a game of ‘Do You Remember’ began. Unable to rely on my memory, I did the next best thing. I listened attentively to others’ interesting anecdotes, immersing myself in the experience so successfully that, after a while, I was convinced that I was the protagonist in that particular adventure or escapade.
Every time there is a family get-together, this dream crops up casually in conversation. As the battle for ownership heats up, there are real tears of indignation in one sibling’s eyes as she tries to establish the validity of her claim against that of the impostor
Soon, at the next get-together of family and friends, I was able to include myself in the conversation by planting myself smack in the heat of the action. Convinced as I was of my central role in this adventure, it was hurtful when a sibling accused me of stealing his or her memory. Stung to the quick, I played back each twist and turn of that escapade only to be accused of plagiarism. The unfairness of the whole situation played on my mind for days as I seethed over the double standards. While everyone was expected to believe their story, my credentials were questioned as soon as I began my narrative.
In the largest survey on the subject of first memories, researchers have concluded it is improbable that humans remember anything before the age of three and a half. The study, published in the Psychological Science Journal, found 40 per cent of people’s first memories are fictional. These early memories related to infancy are often the result of memory mixed with imagination, the authors of the study say.
The findings of this study will help me prove that my older siblings’ memories are but a figment of their imagination. More importantly, it will help put to rest conflicting claims to a particular dream.
These very same siblings have been fighting over a dream for years, with each laying claim to ownership. Every time there is a family get-together, this dream crops up casually in conversation. As the battle for ownership heats up, there are real tears of indignation in one sibling’s eyes as she tries to establish the validity of her claim against that of the impostor.
By now the next generation is familiar with all the twists in this absorbing saga and is willing to take on the challenging role of arbiter.
However, they are unaware of the pitfalls ahead. Before accepting this challenge, they must be made aware of family history as well as be familiar with the arguments that will be put forward. They must brace themselves for drama, tears and appeals to parental authority for confirmation. This last gambit can be tricky as the old couple has come in the line of fire before, merely for corroborating one account over another.
To deliver a fair judgement without being seen as taking sides is not easy. More often than not, the judge comes under fire.
I suppose we must just be grateful that what is being fought over is just a dream, not an inheritance or right to property. So, there is less likelihood of irreparable damage to relationships.
— Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.