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On Moveable Feasts and Memory

This post was first sent to my newsletter on April 4th, 2021.
You really ought to subscribe :)

A tiny bit of houskeeping before we begin.
I used to track how many people read the newsletter, partly out of morbit curiosity and partly because Sendy, the software I use to write and schedule these letters, did not have an option to turn it off globally. I would have to turn it it off every single time, I wrote a letter and well, my life is too short to be doing all that.
However with the latest version of Sendy all that has changed.
And I have turned off all tracking! Yippee!
Talk about the importance of sane defaults!)
And now, on to the letter …

I wrote about keeping my daddy and granny alive, in the last letter.
And serendipitously, I came across two articles that touched on something similar.

Here’s a few quotes from Farnam Street’s, We are What We Remember

Memories are not like movies, exactly the same no matter how many times you watch them. Nor are they like files stored in a computer, unchanging data saved for when we might want to retrieve it. Memories, like the rest of our biology, are fluid.

“Memory is more like live theater, where there are constantly new productions of the same pieces,” the Østbys write. “Each and every one of our memories is a mix of fact and fiction. In most memories the central story is based on true events, but it’s still reconstructed every time we recall it. In these reconstructions, we fill in the gaps with probable facts. We subconsciously pick up details from a sort-of memory prop room.”

This means that memories are personal!
And not just that.
They are also, only what I imagine them to be.
And not who they actually were.

Which in turn, depressed me a bit.
So is it all for naught?
If a beloved dies, then do they really go away?
Am I hanging on to fragments of imagination?

George R R Martin gives me hope though.

Like Hemingway in Paris, I never had much money. I shared rooms at cons, slept on floors or in a bathtub, got to the cons on a bus or in the back seat of a friend’s car… walked to the hotels from the bus station, lugging my suitcase in my hand (no wheels on luggage in those days) since I did not have the money for a cab. Were those the bad parts? Or the good parts? From 2020, it is not easy to say. They make me smile now, as I look back. But if I try, I know that there were really bad parts too. Like Hemingway, though, I choose not to dwell on them. The world was a fucked-up place, then as now, but fandom was a refuge; warm, welcoming, strange (but in a good way), a community unlike any I had ever known, united by a shared love of our peculiar little branch of literature and the people who wrote it.

To quote one of Hemingway’s contemporaries, however, you can’t go home again. By the time Hemingway sat down to write A MOVEABLE FEAST in those last years of his life, he surely knew that the Paris he had known and loved in the 20s was gone forever… and the fandom that I knew and loved in the 70s is gone as well. This year the worldcon is in Washinton DC, in the very same hotel where the 1974 worldcon was held… the worldcon where I lost my first Hugo, accepted Lisa Tuttle’s Campbell Award, and prowled the halls till dawn with Gargy, looking for parties we never found. There is a part of me that somehow hopes that going back to the same hotel in the same city, I might somehow recapture something of those nights. But my head knows better. My head knows those days are gone forever, along with so many of the people that I shared them with. I wonder how often Papa Hemingway returned to Paris in the 40s and 50s, and what he thought of the place when he did.

A bit of hope that even if no remembers them anymore, my mind and heart will.
It gives me faith that my love for them, will keep them alive.
It leaves me with gratitude for the fact I chose to remember their best parts, that I chose to remember them with warmth and love.
And with appreciation for my family and friends. It is our collective memories that will keep those who have gone before us, alive. It is our stories, that will make heroes. It is our remembrances that will give them legacies.

And that to me, is enough :)
Until next time …


P.S. Please read both the links. They are worth it.

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