So, here I am over the last few days busily editing a manuscript that has lain fallow for too long. It has been an interesting endeavor to resurrect something that has been fermenting. The editing task has been enlightening in that it has opened up a lot of questions from me – about me.
You see, the piece is a reminiscence about what it was like to be growing up in my town in the historical period in which I grew up. You know you are getting old when you refer to your earlier life as an ‘historical period’. But, that’s what it is. It is the stuff of quaint retrospectives in films and TV shows, most of which (with the exception perhaps of the meticulously researched Mad Men) are grievously clichéd and inaccurate.
But, that’s not my point here. My point is, how accurate are our own memories of our own lives? It’s all about point-of-view. Is my elaboration of how I emotionally responded something that happened when I was age 5 reflective of what I felt when I was 5, or is it reflective of how the situation impacts me now at a much greater age?
In other words, was I the same person at 5 as I am now? Or, is this just some of that inner-child claptrap that was so trendy a while ago?
If I am still the same person as that inner child, doesn’t that mean I’m screwed? Doesn’t it mean the whole maturation process was kind of a waste since I am still a whimpering, simpering tot?
I’m telling Wendy about a particular incident in the book and I’m telling her how good it made me feel at the time. “Or, does it make you feel good now?” she asked. Maybe you felt different then. And maybe your memory isn’t at all accurate so you’ve colored it to suit who you are now?”
Holy poop, I thought. That might mean that all reminiscences from anybody are a crock! Just a pack of swinish lies designed to mollify the ego of the writer. What to believe?
She told me of an incident that put her point into realistic perspective. She cited it because she has an entirely different memory of the same incident than do I.
A few years ago we went on a Zodiac trip along the magnificent Napali coast on Kauai. The boat was crewed by two Hawaiian guys, an older and younger man.
“The way you tell the story, and I’ve heard you, is that the skipper was an older man, a rough-hewn old Hawaiian seafaring guy.”
Well yes, I thought. And so he was.
“No he wasn’t,” she said. “He was a relatively young man, certainly considerably younger than you.”
Too many people are these days, I resignedly thought.
So, was I lying in telling that story? No, I wasn’t. From my point-of-view the trip was what I remembered. It was at odds with what she remembered.
So, all I can say is that if my book should ever be published and you should happen upon a copy, remember that all my disgusting lies are unintentional.