I have a memory from my childhood that is awful. I inhaled chlorine into my lungs became very sick, struggled to breathe and was rushed to Children's Hospital. Here is my memory of it.
I was 3 or 4 years old and playing with my cousins at my great-aunt's house. She had a very cool in-ground pool. My memories of that day were of my second cousins and how cool they were. I remember the sun shining on them as they sun bathed. They were gorgeous teenage girls and I wanted them to be my sisters. After eating fruit salad, potato salad and a grilled hot dog off a thick paper plate, I ran off with my brothers into an immense yard. While we were goofing around, we discovered a shed. Naturally we went inside to check it out. There was a bucket that was covered with a piece of burlap sack. I lifted the fabric and my brothers asked me what I had found. I reached in and pulled out a white hockey puck and placed it to my nose to smell it. The rest of my memory goes like this: I can't breathe. Hospital lights. This puppet. I smell the pool. Something is on my face. My mom. Yellowish walls and crisp hospital bed sheets. I see my legs. The end.
But guess what?
It didn't happen that way. It happened. Just not that way. The entire lead up to the trauma is completely fabricated. But dudes, it's is how I "remember" it going down. It was just recently that I asked my mom about it and she told me what really happened.
There was no shed. No yard. No burlap sack. It happened inside my grandma's house, not my great-aunt's house. The only true parts of the "memory" are at the very end starting from when I couldn't breathe. The hockey puck was chlorine for my grandma's above ground pool. I didn't just smell it. I inhaled it. My lips turned blue and I was struggling to breathe with chlorine in my lungs. I was rushed to the hospital and the rest of my recollection is true. Even the creepy puppet.
Uh...my memory wasn't real. That is insane pants.
So naturally, I've been obsessively thinking about memory and childhood. Then I started thinking about the day that Mr. Pants was swarmed by hornets and how that horrifying memory might just show up to him someday. I know he will retain the physical memory of it because a tiny body doesn't forget 22 hornet stings. But I wondered if he will actually remember what happened versus building a memory based on our re-telling of that day or by merging several memories together. Or maybe my memory about that day will morph into something else since this is apparently a problem for me. I mean, when I'm 70 will I be telling the story about how he was attacked by bears in a swimming pool? Who knows?
To comfort myself or to find out if I was crazy, I did a little research and I found that children under three are physically incapable of forming long term memories. Which is awesome to know. Also, more importantly, creating false memories is normal. Phew! You cancheck out some fun facts here. And if this is up your alley like it is mine, follow the linked sources too. It will blow your mind. Blow. Your. Mind. As in, freak your freak. Fascinating stuff.
Memory is constantly being shaped by our feelings, knowledge and beliefs, so the memories we pull out often look nothing like the individual pieces we put in. It may even be that accuracy isn't memory's primary goal. Rather, since memory is often used as a tool that guides future actions, reconstructing it like we do may enable us to make better decisions [source: Dingfelder].[source: discovery.com]