Memories are funny things. Current research indicates that they’re exceptionally fallible and subject to change over time for a variety of reasons. To my way of thinking the further they deviate from actual events, the less of a “memory” they are.
Some of my earliest memories, for example, are what I’ll call indirect memories: memories of a photograph posing as a memory of the actual event.
I do have one specific memory that may qualify as one of my earliest. I say “may”, because it might have been formed when I was somewhere around 3, or 5 years old, or maybe as old as 18. I believe it to be a “real” memory because it involves some things that a photograph can’t capture: sounds and smells.
It’s a rainy day. There’s a drizzle, almost a misting of rain. It’s at that point where the water comes down so light that you don’t feel the need to grab a raincoat. It’s only water, after all. It’s just enough to get you slightly wet if you stand out in it long enough.
I’m standing out in it.
I’m outside the house next to the cabin my parents were living in when I was born. Bordering one side of the house was a large lawn bordered by evergreens. The rain – the mist – hung over the trees, obscuring their very tops.
The smell, difficult to describe, is part of the memory. It’s a fresh, clean smell, filled with the aroma that I’d imagine trees and plants give off as they reach out to take in the moisture. It feels like it must be spring.
It’s very quiet. I think it’s morning, but between the cloud cover and the rain it could be almost any time of day. This type of drizzle brings with it a kind of quiet timelessness.
In the distance, someone is playing bagpipes.
This is all taking place just north of Victoria, B.C., where there’s a population of British and Scottish in the area that makes this feel much less out of place that it might seem.
Drizzle. Calm. Fresh.
Bagpipes in the rain.
It’s one of those memories that returns to me from time to time. Particularly when the rain is just so, and the sounds are just so, and the smell is just so…. a part of me still expects to hear bagpipes.