Collective Memory

In Mel's Musings, The Family, Travel
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What happens to all the things we forget? All the experiences we have and the sights we see – we can’t remember them all.

I think about this as another small, very old Spanish village slips past the window and the mountains in the distance shift to another hue of purple. The drive over these escarpments, through the countryside between Valencia and Barcelona is so stunning, and I’m with my family and the music’s loud and I’m driving with the window down and I want to remember every last little detail of what I see and how I’m feeling but I just don’t know how to hold on to it all.

Needless to say it’s not the first time I have felt like this in the last 16 months (or in my life for that matter!). Innumerable times I have stopped and said to myself, ‘Hold this. Hold onto this right now so you can remember it all and come back to it.’ I’m not sure it’s possible for me to do that though. Maybe for some, but my memory works in big pictures not detail, so I will know I loved the drive but I may not see the colourfully tiled church spire nestled in the gully when I next think of it. So I’m very grateful that Matt is such an accomplished photographer! And that we have each other.

“Where was that?”
“Oh, that was where Ellie lost tiger and we saw that awesome rooftop garden.”
“No it wasn’t, it was where we had the best hot chocolates ever in that place with the cool sugar pots.”
“That’s right, so it was.”

Random events and the funny little things that our children notice and remember become our jolts and between the five of us, it seems we have a pretty good collective memory.

The girls certainly have memories for detail, as was abundantly clear when we met up with Matt in Valencia after his few days in Madrid. Walking along the street to dinner the three of them recounted with great precision our days in Granada. The tellers of the main stories had been identified over the preceding three days (bags telling Dad!) and it seemed they were afraid to draw breath in the telling for fear they would lose their place and his ear, and someone else would get to talk. I’m sure Matt almost felt as though he had never left, so intricately had our time apart been relayed to him. I walked along behind the gaggle, listening to their stories with a smile and getting some insight into their interpretation of events through each recount.

They listened to Matt’s story of his night at the concert with tears of envy.

So what does happen to the things we forget? Will I be able to dredge them up at some later stage? Are they still in my brain somewhere, hidden behind other things that I might access more frequently? I don’t know, so I just try to hold on, hold on, hold on to everything now. Maybe it feels more urgent because our time on the road is coming to an end. A few days exploring Barcelona, cross the south of France for a few weeks in Italy and after a couple of days in Slovenia we’re hotfooting it back to London to sell the van and see Cats. Soon our location will not be changing every few days. Soon we will have a kitchen and a table, our own beds and our puppy dog back. We will be in our new home going to school and having Friday night pizza with cousins.

And someone will say, “That reminds me of that place we camped where the cloud rolled down the hill into the ocean. Remember that?”
“Yeah, that was the place with all the cats, remember? And we had our morning cup of tea looking out at the fog and you couldn’t even see the sea, and those people with that gorgeous black puppy pulled up!”

Remember that?



  1. Hi Shanas..take care out there! Thought provoking post. Just stumbled across it when I got on to reassure myself you are travelling across the south of France. Don’t seem to be getting email notifications any more? xxx

  2. So wonderful to reminisce together as a family. When we first returned to Australia, we used to have rolling photos of our year in Spain as the screen saver on our TV in the lounge room. It was as an awesome reminder of so many incredible experiences we had shared but also quite distracting from whatever we needed to do. Enjoy your final weeks before the next adventure: repatriation! Good luck with all

    • Thanks Bianca. Might be in touch when we get home for an understanding ear! Cheers, Mel

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