The Five Senses of Memory

Welcome to my very own Creative Writing Month where each day of the month I am focusing on a topic and spending fifteen minutes reflecting and writing as inspired by the topic. For more information about why and how check out my post, Writing Down the Bones.

Today’s topic: Write about an early memory.

At what point in time do we begin to consciously remember events of our lives? And, what keeps those memories a part of us for so long? As I scroll through some of the earlier reels of memory within my mind I’m puzzled by why I remember some things so vividly and not others.

I can recall that at the age of three I was watching my Aunt perform at a local choir competition. The auditorium where she performed was a part of the school where I am currently employed. I remember that the entrance was guarded by a police officer and that as I entered the auditorium the officer shook my hand and told me to, “have a good time.” As I watched the performance I recall sitting on the lap of a family friend dancing as I clapped along to the music. Why I so vividly remember this specific day I will never know. To my knowledge there was really nothing significant that took place on this day, but it is one of my earliest memories which has stood the test of time and avoided  the land of forgotten memories.

Memory is strange. It can be so true to reality and also so deceitful. Memories can help us to see more clearly things we may have missed or forgotten. To me, it is so strange that there are so many memories I wish I could relive, but over time those ones have faded and even escaped me. What causes us to forget what it was like to be with a lost loved one, but remember sitting on Santa’s lap when we were ten? Without real intention in retaining moments in my mind I lose some of the most important memories to time.

These days, when something happens that I truly wish to remember I record it. I write down the life behind every part of the memory. I go through the five senses and relive the moments so that in my writing I can help train my brain to lead me back to those moments. I write what it was like to hold my daughter for the first time, how it sounded when she said her first word, what it smelled like in the pet shop where we found our kitten, how it tasted to try my very first Jeni’s ice cream, and what it looked like when my student’s understood something new for the very first time.

It is so true that words can bring forth life. The way memories are recorded affect the way we interact with them in the future. That is one of the many reasons why writing is so important in life.

So next time you find yourself thinking, “I wish this day would never end” or “I want to remember this forever,” jot down what it was like in that moment for all five senses. How did it feel, taste, smell, sound, and what did it look like? The more detailed your descriptions, the easier it will be to recreate it in your mind. If you are anything like me you know that memories can come and go, but writing is here to stay. Even when we are gone our words will continue to breathe life.

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