Thanksgiving is almost here, with visits from relatives and table talk.

My family knows better than to talk about politics or religion. One of the topics we tend to discuss is childhood memories.

“Oh, you have the crock Mom got at that antique store in Maine. Do you remember when she bought it?”

“Do you remember having breakfast at Rosanne’s house, when Dad announced they were getting married? Do you remember how we laughed hysterically?”


Like the corners of my mind

Misty water-colored memories

Of the way we were

No, I don’t remember those events. Why do my brother and sisters recall things that I don’t?

A lot of research has been done on how memories are formed. An article in Psychology Today says, “memory is the bedrock of the self — and … it may be perpetually shifting and terrifically malleable.”

So, the things we remember serve as the foundation for who we are as adults. Have you ever discovered something that happened in your childhood that shook your world?

My sister once told me of a scene involving me that she witnessed as a child. I had no memory of this, but it has shed light on many of my experiences and on my identity.

Geez, how distorted our memories can be. And how strangely they are formed.

Memories, may be beautiful and yet

What’s too painful to remember

We simply choose to forget

The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget said he had a memory from early childhood of his nurse fending off an attempted kidnapping, with himself as the potential victim. He remembered his nanny pushing him in his carriage when a man came up to kidnap him. Piaget remembered the man, the location of the event, the scratches his nanny got while fending off the kidnapper, and of a police officer coming to the rescue.

Then, when Piaget was 15, his nanny confessed that she’d made up the kidnapping story to attract sympathy. She even scratched herself to make it seem real. The event Piaget remembered so vividly had never actually occurred.

Piaget concluded that the false memory was probably implanted by the nanny’s frequent retelling of the original story over the years. Eventually, the scene became rooted in Piaget’s memory as an actual event.

Research shows that 25 percent of people can be easily induced to remember events that never occurred, according to the Psychology Today article. Remember in the 1990s, how hip it was for celebrities to uncover memories of having been sexually abused and in satanic cults? That’s not to diminish the real thing, but really, what was that about?

I was in counseling during that time. Of course, talking about my parents and childhood was a big subject. A few times, I started with an actual scene to make sense of it by trying to remember more, what happened before or after the scene. I did manage to come up with some interesting scenarios.

For instance, I’ve always remembered cowering, at age 5, on the floor of my father’s car as he did some drinking at a bar near our home. It seemed like hours.

In a counseling session, I imagined my dad driving us home. I went to bed. My mother stormed into my room and jealously blamed me for keeping my dad out. Was this true? I don’t know.

Talking with my siblings about childhood events helps to fill in the picture. Our collective memory helps us get honest about what happened. As adults, we can process the difficult times, make sense of them and let them go.

So it’s the laughter

We will remember

Whenever we remember ...

The way we were ...

Luanne Austin lives in Mount Sidney. Contact her at, or care of the DN-R.

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