Monday, April 02, 2007

Earliest Memory: The Effect of Age

Another essay in the Draaisma book pointed out that as we get older we remember more about our youth. Around about the age of sixty we start to remember details of events from our youth that we didn't remember before. This has happened to my mother. For a long time she knew that a cousin had once told her about the origin of her surname but she couldn't remember the detail. It was something she often told me. Her name was Wilde, something derived from a Huguenot name but she couldn't remember what it was. Then one day recently it came to her. DeWilde. The name was DeWilde. They were a family of shopkeepers and the 'De' had been removed because it was thought to look 'too foreign' to hang above the shop front in Treorchy in the Welsh valleys. Not only could my mother now remember this fact, but she could remember other details of when her cousin told her.

It makes me wonder what is happening in the brain - why suddenly the links are there and something that was hidden in the unconscious springs forth into the conscious. Why should there be this uncovering? I know our brains change as we age - and it is not all bad (as my mother's account shows). Perhaps it is like an unwrapping and as that something is peeled back (or removed) there is more room which allows different connections to be made between neurons. We have to make new links with our 'plastic' dendritic nodes and find new routes in order to access our thoughts. Then, because we are making different journeys, we also pass by different views - and memories that have been laid to rest in the unconscious suddenly break through into the light.


Blogger Anne S said...


I am turning 60 this year, so at least I can look forward to forgotten memories returning to me.
Let's hope they are interesting.

Tue Apr 03, 12:28:00 am  
Blogger Marly Youmans said...

The writer William Maxwell (there are several--the one who was also editor at "The New Yorker") talked about this--he lived past 90, and many things emerged.

But what about those things one has buried, and does not want to remember?

Tue Apr 03, 02:46:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh good. Does this mean I am going to remember where I put me car keys?

Tue Apr 03, 02:58:00 pm  

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