My grandmother spends many evenings looking at photos. When I went to visit her last summer in Italy, she showed me her small collection of memories, and I saw myself growing up. It’s strange to see these memories so far from the place and time they were taken. On the other hand, it was incredibly heart-tugging that my grandmother’s favorite pass time is to enjoy these memories of her family; memories that she wasn’t a part of.
I wonder if she regrets my father and family moving a whole continent away, or if she regrets her inability to leave her home and join us. I wonder if she wishes I could speak the language better… I am trying though.
As a university student who chose to move away from her hometown and family, I feel as though I share a connection to my grandmother. Yet, I believe that she feels loneliness more acutely. Perhaps that’s why she keeps her photos so close: as a way to feel a connection with us.
I believe that memories, and stories can help to bridge the gap and loss felt of missed experiences. However, it doesn’t always work. Its hard to recreate the same emotions and to have someone else understand what made a particular memory important. Can it even be done? A memory is constantly changing, and when you tell a story, the act of you sharing and shaping the words changes the facts and the truth. A picture is supposed to be worth a 1000 words, but which ones? There is no truth to a photo, only interpretation. But I digress.
How do we tell a story about a shared memory to someone who is outside it, and make them feel connected? Do we re-invent it to make it more relatable? Do we add humorous elements that are partially false to make them laugh? And then what happens to our story? What I find interesting, is that sometimes, your memory becomes interconnected with the storytelling. I do not remember a time when I was young with my siblings, when my brother convinced my sister to draw a mustache on herself with a permanent marker. I do, however, remember the time when my brother told this account at numerous dinner tables. So all memories are possibly fabricated, and nothing our minds do will return us to a particular moment in the past. So that is the role of the story.