Bridging Memories with Stories

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.




5 thoughts on “Bridging Memories with Stories

  1. I just got off Skype (I think it’s okay to say that nowadays) with my parents in one country and my sister’s family in another. I have often experienced the isolation of my parents in my imagination and it is tremendously painful. Perhaps more so than it is in reality…or so I really hope. Your awareness of your grandmother’s loneliness fills me with shared melancholy. Don’t really have much of a way to describe how it all makes me feel. But it is an emotion strong enough to trigger this quick comment before I hit the sack!

    PS. I haven’t read your last post yet! It’ll happen soon!

    1. Sometimes I wonder if I am being a little selfish with my choices, and in being so far away from my family. I am torn between wanting to have my own adventures, and experiences, and the loyalty I have to my family. I wish I could do both, but I know that it is impossible. I hope that deep down, parents understand that their children want to spread their wings… thank you for sharing!

  2. At the risk of sounding cliche: how well someone relates to a memory (e.g. a photo) despite being outside it – must be proportional to how much (s)he loves the subjects. The stronger the bond, the more vivid the interpretation. Sort of a vicarious living thing, I guess. Lots of love to your grandmother – she reminds me of mine.

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