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Fading Memories

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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
Posts: 407
Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 7:04 pm    Post subject: Fading Memories Reply with quote

Everyone’s recollection of the past fades over time. What is interesting is the number of early childhood memories, even some seemingly insignificant, that are retained through the years. Why do some memories remained burned in our brain cells while others disappear? Obviously, some important events had a significant impact on us at the time they occurred. On the other hand, we sometimes can recall various things that may appear to be trivial. They probably struck us as being out of the ordinary or had an emotional impact. As we age, near term memories seem to fade faster than older memories. Perhaps our minds have become more cluttered or we have more things on our mind so that any particular event does not register as deeply in our brain.

An interesting exercise is trying to date some of your earliest memories. Most people should be able to remember their early school days. I can still clearly picture the first day in elementary school, entering Miss Lulu Baepler’s classroom. Before that, it is difficult to associate specific dates. For example, I can remember attending a pancake meal at the Concordia High School gym when Dad was campaigning for mayor. (Yes, he actually did campaign for his first term.) That was about 1940, when I was still preschool age. Another event that can be dated was Grandpa Frerking’s death. I was four at that time. I still have images of my mother taking me into the bedroom at the Klingenberg home and the aunts standing there weeping. One the other hand, I don’t remember any details of Grandma Pape’s funeral. I was in high school at that time. However, I do recall stammering for a reply when Pres. Wolbrecht expressed his regrets to me at St. Paul's College.

Needless to say, our memories will continue to fade. That’s why I keep urging people to write down their memories of the “good old days”. Oral history (such as discussed at various get-togethers) is fine, but can become lost or distorted over time. As Walter Forster points out in the preface of his book Zion on the Mississippi, historical chronicles are "dissipated by that familiar trinity of corrosive forces..., disintegration in family chests, distortion in anniversary publications, and dilution in personal histories." A written memoir, particularly a first person account, is an invaluable record of the past. Your descendents will be all the richer because of it.

Give it a try. See what early event you can recall and write it down. It’s good exercise for the mind and may be a good antidote for Alzheimers. Like Citizen Kane, some day your family may have a "Rosebud" moment.
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