I was watching a home movie from my childhood, recently, and something my dad said has stayed with me for days, now. In the video, he was filming my bicycle in the front yard. He told the watchers of course whose bike it was. Then he said, “that’s my favorite person in the whole world. Someday, years from now, she’ll watch this video and I hope it makes her feel good to know that.” Of course it did make me feel good. I wasn’t present when he said that and even though I’ve always known of his love for me, it was awesome to hear his voice talking about me that way. It was nice to know he was thinking about the future and wanted to make sure I knew how he felt.
Working on the novel that is inspired by dad’s life story and watching those home videos from my childhood has led me to some incredibly profound realizations about life. I have learned a lot of things about my dad along this writing journey. And I’ve learned a lot of things about myself. And my family. Perhaps realized is the better word.
Memories are fragile things, I’ve come to realize. And when you’re re-creating a story that is based upon an abundance of memories by a number of people…it gets really complex and nuanced. But at the same time, those combined memories of a single event or time period really creates a bigger picture that is undeniably fascinating and engaging. Characters that were initially based off of a single person are transforming into unique entities. The exploration of memories is reshaping the life I have come to know.
Most often, I’ve come to find, it’s the tone in the sharing of the memory that says more than the actual memory itself. The way the memory begins or ends. The people not included in it. The repetition of the same memory. The pauses in speech as the memory is being shared. The song that gets played immediately before or after the sharing. So much can be learned about a person through their sharing of memories. Not just who they were at the time. But whom they have become.