(photo credit: Baltimore–Inner Harbor: Harborplace’s 30th Anniversary Crab by Wally Gobetz on flickr.com. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.)
When I was young, my family used to go to the drive-in movie theater on July 4th. Every year, they screened “Planet of the Apes,” and then put on a fireworks display.
That’s how I remember it,
Now, though, as I’m trying to recall the details, I find myself wondering if we actually went to the drive-in for several years in a row or if it was only one or two times. And I can’t recall where I saw fireworks once I started hanging out with my friends for July 4th, except in 1980 (I was 15), the year that Baltimore’s Harborplace first opened and a friend’s older boyfriend drove us downtown in his convertible Fiat to watch the show.
Or maybe he drove us down there on the 3rd or the 5th because my actual memory does not include seeing the fireworks. Mostly, it includes driving past the Harborplace Pavilions in that car. And I remember that the boyfriend’s name was Alex and he had a lot of hair. I wonder if he’s bald now.
I’m fascinated by why some elements and not others from a story from the past rise to the surface of my memory. Sometimes what I remember (Alex’s hair, for example) is not something that’s significant to me or to the story. So why is that what I remember? What happened to the meat of the story? Will it rise to the surface at some future time?
After I remember something, if I sit with it for awhile or write about it, sometimes the rest of the story will begin to fill in. What I don’t know is whether my mind is gathering the actual memories of what happened in the story or if it is making stuff up that seems logical or interesting enough to make the story whole.
My anxiety about misleading people when I tell stories of my life is probably what led to my interest in writing fiction instead of non-fiction. But anxiety, it seems, is not enough to keep me away from telling “true” stories from my life.
I know that there will always be parts of the stories I tell that aren’t fully based in truth, but I’ve come to realize that what I’m trying to communicate is the impact of what happened, and as long as I can do that honestly, I can’t worry too much about the accuracy of every single detail.
I’m still aiming to tell the whole truth but rest assured, if you were with me at the time of the story being told, we will probably disagree about exactly how one thing or the other happened.
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