How I cherish my fake memories
In my autobiographical novel Ties that Bind, I describe how as a boy the protagonist Erik waves at his mother, who is having tea on the terrace of a chic hotel at a seaside resort. He and his younger brother are digging holes in the sand below with a nanny who was hired especially for the summer vacation.
Erik longs to be on the terrace with his mother who, seated in a wicker chair, is dressed in a beige twinset with a silk scarf draped elegantly around her hair.
She waves back at him and his brother in her very particular way, moving only the fingers of her hand as though she’s playing Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” in the air.
Ties that Bind is taken from real life but I did make some important changes.
In the book Erik only has a brother and a sister rather than the six siblings I had. I wanted to focus on the relationship of two brothers who shared a common ailment.
Still, I was convinced that I really did wave at my mother from the beach.
Recently, when leafing through a book of the buildings my father designed, I discovered a photo of that seaside hotel, which he renovated twenty-five years ago. I was startled to see that it is situated high on the dunes with a long wooden staircase leading from the beach to the grounds. The beach would have been much too far removed from the terrace to see anyone there, let alone to observe what they were wearing or how they waved.
On the internet I looked up photos of the hotel fifty-five years ago and saw that it had always been that way: the hotel far off from the beach below. Did I defy logic just so I could maintain my memory intact?
Perhaps I created the scene in order to convey Erik’s longing for his unattainable mother and then started to believe it had really happened. If so, each time I thought of it, I reinforced the mistaken idea that it actually occurred.
Or I might have taken snapshots from other memories, such as how my mother was dressed the times she did go to the beach with us. I thought of the way she waved in order to construct an image that I then labelled as a memory.
Memories are a bit like dreams or even convictions; they may not be factually true but they certainly feel real.
Even though I realized that this particular memory was made up, I cannot erase it from my mind. I will therefor continue to cherish it until I replace it with another, perhaps equally fabricated, one.
Here you can find a link to the Dutch, English, and Spanish versions of Ties that Bind: