As I work on telling my own story I realize just how hard it can be to decide how to tell it as there are so many viewpoints so consider. Is my childhood memory the correct version, or should I interpret it in the light of my understanding of it now? How should I tell the parts of the story that were difficult? Should I protect people who didn’t behave very well? It is so much less clearer than it may at first appear!
I have noticed over time that the story I tell myself has changed, from simple acceptance, to a more nuanced understanding of adult motivations. As a parent I am seeing why parts of the stories were not told to me as a child, and yet I would have liked to have had the opportunity to have formed my own opinions. There were vague reasons given for things I sensed were happening, but which weren’t told to me as a child. As the real stories emerged from amongst the shadows of age and approaching death, I’m sad that I didn’t really knew the people concerned. I responded to them based on my incomplete – and biased by the teller’s – information, and wonder how much more rich my life would have been if I had been told the unvarnished truth?
There are also positive memories to be recorded. I am moved by photographic evidence of how comfortable and rich my life was as a child. I was surrounded by a village of generations of family and their friends who looked out for me and after me. They taught me skills, how to make things, how to identify plants, how the tides worked, and how to behave around people of different ages.
I was taken to so many different locations and given so many experiences that other children didn’t have. We had a camper van and after a few forays into the English countryside, began three week odysseys each summer to different areas of Europe. We saw and learned about Mulberry harbors on the D-Day landing beaches, saw row upon row of graves in war cemeteries, and exhibitions of photos and artifacts showing just how awful both wars had been. These images were counterbalanced by stories of human kindness and tenacity in the face of such horror. It was far from the experience of many of my friends whose times away were spent basking on a sunny beach and learning nothing from their location.
So I have a personal story to tell, but it is also the story of my family, and it is my brother’s story seen through a different set of filters. Which perspective should prevail? All, or just mine? How can I best preserve my recollections, and choose which ones will be most useful to future generations as they try to understand my life? As someone who loves to write and use images, my thoughts lie with creating a catalog of memories combining media. As technology moves so fast I don’t want to limit the way I leave my story, so am seriously considering creating a digital presentation that hopefully will survive a little longer than the many albums of orangey 1970s photos have done.
How will you work on the best way to tell your story?