Looking Back

Looking Back on History
Looking Back on History by Chocolatemedia via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

I’ve done a lot of looking back over the last couple of weeks. I have been visiting with some of the members of my UK family, and I realized that when you are around extended family, they tell stories of things that happened in the past. They tell some of the same stories repeatedly. That’s how they remember things.

So, when I came along and they started telling stories of the old days, I was the only one saying “I don’t remember that.” It may be that my aging memory is at fault, but it may also be that I have not been participating in the oral history of the family for too many years. The repeated storytelling means that the people who join in remember the stories, but those of us who have been absent don’t recall things in quite the same way.

Sometimes the stories have evolved over the years into something different from, and better than, the original event. I love that. I love that my family members tell each other their favourite recollections and that they do it so well. I am blessed with a family that loves stories, and words, and creative narration. They are good at this!

Children playing in school playground
Craigside Primary School from Newcastle Libraries via Flickr (Public Domain)

They remember the books we read as children, what was on the radio on Saturdays in the 60s, the games we played on the sidewalks, and the words of skipping rhymes. I listen to all those memories and something in my mind says “Yes, I remember,” but another thing in my mind says “No, I don’t really.” It’s like when you have a local anaesthetic and the doctor sticks a pin in you and asks if you can feel it. You know there’s a pin there, but you also know you aren’t feeling it like you should.

The fact is, though, that I normally don’t do much looking back at all. It’s just not something I do very often even with my own children.  Maybe it’s because we don’t want to remember some of the difficult times we’ve been through, or maybe it’s just because we prefer to look forward, or maybe it’s because I have a crappy memory. I don’t know. I just know that looking back is something I have done a lot in the last couple of weeks, and it is emotionally quite demanding. The remembrances were all good, and the company was wonderful, but for me it was like taking an exam in my own history and blowing it.

Now that I am back in Canada, I am looking back on my brief visit and remembering rooms full of family, tables full of food, walks in lovely parks, and pub lunches beside tranquil rivers.

Looking back feels like warm, surprising, engaging, bewildering, love.


Header Image: Hewens Road, Hayes End by Alan Hunt via Geograph (CC BY-SA 2.0)


  1. This is a lovely post. it’s hard to describe and yet, I think I’ve been there,too? But what I can’t stop thinking about: All of those times I’ve gotten local anesthetic, has the doctor been poking me with a pin?!?! hahah.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I’m really glad I made you smile! I don’t know if your doctor has poked you with a pin, but I know I have been poked with something-or-other that was sharp and asked if I could feel it. I always thought it was a pin, but then my memory being what it is …

  2. I have found my conversations with siblings, children, cousins lunches, and especially my interest in ancestry have triggered all kinds of memories. I mention something while talking to my brother on the telephone and it sets off memories in both of us. I really treasure these conversations because they also explain why i am the way I am, where my beliefs about various things started and why family is so important. Ancestry research has had a profound effect on my memory because it has taught me so many things i would never have otherwise known about myself and the family. Wonderful when the past meets the present and enriches our lives.

    • Yes, indeed. I have thought about doing some ancestry research through one of the online resources but have not as yet dipped my toe into that stream. Some of my cousins and my mother did some old-school family research (viewing parish records etc.) in the past and their findings have been very interesting. I can’t say it improved my memory, but it certainly broadened my understanding!

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