I remember my dream in which I would fly with blue wings attached to my back and watching a day pass by from the edge of a cloud.
I remember the projection of a news channel on the wall in class showing the collapse of the first Twin Tower. As I stepped out into my backyard at home the blue sky disappeared under charcoal black clouds of smoke. When I was older I realised the smoke I saw could not have come from the Twin Towers. Instead, the smoke came from an explosion of a local fireworks factory. The explosion happened a year before the attacks of 9/11.
I remember my fictional character running towards an existing flat, the same flat I headed to on the evening I fled my friend’s birthday party and the thought to jump off the roof crossed my mind.
I remember sticks and imaginary sword fights while hanging in branches of a tree that were later cut down to keep us, children, away.
I remember playing with several boys from my class when two older boys came and told us we had to leave or else they’d call the police. They showed us their phone and one by one all the boys left and hid behind the corner of another street, but I refused to leave. I told them they were lying and after a while, everyone returned to play.
I remember forming a squad around Dion to keep the bullies away until he made it home safely.
I remember I wasn’t allowed to tell any of our fellow tourists in Spain that the air conditioner in our car broke down because my dad did not want them to think we were rich enough to worry about such a thing.
I remember being surrounded by the smiling faces of my friends as a single sentence repeated itself in my head, ‘my parents are going to divorce.’
I remember lying next to him on our trampoline hidden behind the bushes. I remember his soft kisses and our whispers going back and forth.
I remember a group of us trying to chase a flasher. In my head, I can see his long black leather coat, the unclear paths in the forest and the abandoned house next to the river. There was a rumour of a gunshot but I never heard it myself.
I remember a green glass ball on the bed in between my dad and I and the promise to tell one another when something was wrong by using the word toverbal. I remember we never used it.
I remember countless nights of staring at the ceiling, crying, while silently shouting for someone to make it go away.
I remember I once aspired to be a detective. One of the gadgets I owned, a laser alarm, came in useful for keeping my sister out of my room.
I remember hiding behind the couch with hands covering my ears as I whispered to myself, ‘I wish I was dead.’
I remember my attempts to bicycle around a corner when the paths were covered in snow. I fell and repeated the same mistake on the same corner twice.
I remember sitting in my bedroom as I imagined her face. I asked her questions that I answered myself. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened and understood the full meaning of it at the same time. I cried in the back of the church when I saw her two sons. I still wonder if they are okay. I’ve forgotten the rest.
I remember starting a pillow fight just after meeting my new friend to break the awkwardness.
I remember collecting Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows in the middle of the night and staying up to read it. It was the last time I sacrificed my sleep for a book.
Written in response to Joe Brainard’s, I Remember (New York: Granary, 2001) for one of my classes last semester. I revised the version I submitted for my assignment. This is the revised version.
Memories are subjective. Every person remembers the same moment in a different way.
I will briefly discuss the autobiographic aspects of my work by the hand of Siri Hustvedt’s essay ‘The Real Story’. My version of ‘I Remember’, which is based on Joe Brainard’s ‘I Remember’, can be taken as autobiographical. The piece consists of memories from my life and although I tried to be as truthful as possible this does not guarantee that my memory describes an event exactly as it happened back then. (My dad describes a different event of what happened when our air con broke down in Spain.) ‘The act of remembering is not retrieving some original fact stored in the brain’s “hard drive.” What we recall is the last version of a given memory.’ (Hustvedt, p. 94). What we take as truth then, might not be as close to the truth as we initially expected.
When taking a closer look at my memories in ‘I Remember’ evidence of altered memories can be found. For example, the lines ‘I remember the projection of a news channel on the wall in class showing the collapse of the first Twin Tower. As I stepped out into my backyard at home the blue sky disappeared under charcoal black clouds of smoke,’ suggest that I remember both events taking place on the same day. However, looking back it is impossible that the smoke I saw was caused by the collapse of the Twin Towers as the smoke I saw was caused by the collapse of the Twin Towers as the smoke in New York could not have reached my house in the Netherlands.
Inconsistencies like these can be found in other memoirs such as Rousseau’s life history. As readers, we presume that his accounts are true but scholars can spot inaccuracies in his accounts of events that took place in his life. However, Hustvedt states that she never thought Rousseau deliberately lied. Although my memory of the collapse of the Twin Towers shows an inconsistency, I did not deliberately alter my memory. Instead, even if we cannot be certain, it is likely that my mind took two memories of considerable disasters and combined them into one. However, it is certain that ‘the fragments of the past we recall best are those coloured by feeling,’ (Hustvedt, p. 103) even if it is unlikely that we can recover feelings and sensations better than we can reproduce events.
There are memories in my version of ‘I remember’ which speaks to the idea that memories are best remembered when emotions are involved. My memory of ‘countless nights of staring at the ceiling, crying, while silently shouting for someone to make it go away,’ is linked to a feeling of utter desperation, while my memory of ‘lying next to him on our trampoline hidden behind the bushes. I remember his soft kisses and our whispers going back and forth,’ is linked to a feeling of absolute bliss. I remember both feelings to be intense and neither have another occurrence to compare them to. Like Rousseau declared ‘that while he may stumble over facts, what he cannot be mistaken about are his own feelings,’ (Hustvedt, p. 103) my memories are the emotional truth.