Last night I was trying to remember something. I was scrabbling around in, what sometimes feels like, my 1920s hatbox filled with fogged-over pictures from the past few years, trying to capture whatever it was I was looking for.
But to no avail.
Then I decided to contextualise things for myself, knowing that this normally gets those rusty wheels churning again… and do you know how I did this?
I thought of two things: where I was living (because, as you know by now I am a bit of a gypsy) and what I was reading at the time of the event I was trying to remember.
For some reason, these two variables always seem to assist in filing memories in some workable order.
I can look at my bookshelf and pick out, say for instance, Chimamanda Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and know that I was living in PE and loving my job at Die Burger, but also missing home and my family and my friends and my boyfriend and the vibrancy of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Betty’s Bay, at the time of devouring this heartbreaking novel set during the Nigeria-Biafra War.
And this would lead on to other thoughts, like the Sunday market at the beach I used to frequent where an old man sold home-made fudge of the most phantasmagorical flavours for ridiculously cheap, and that one time I went to the movies all by myself, watched a chick flick and celebrated with a large box of popcorn, Whispers and a cooldrink. Then I would also remember the backroads of my neighbourhood, the ones I would take to miss the morning traffic, and that warmth spreading through my chest and to my cheeks when I got to the office to find one of my stories had made it to the front page…
And suddenly PE would be real again. Not a half-forgotten, did that really happen? slide that flicks by too quickly in my mind. But a clear and crisp clip from a not-so-long-ago part of my life.
I suddenly realised that I tend to do this quite often.
And wondered if other people do too…
So, I’m interested… how do you contextualise memories for yourself? Maybe by relationships? Music? Pets? Seasons? Fashion?