Living Memory

UK in a CloudI’ve been thinking about Living Memory recently. Not for any specific reason, but I am increasingly aware that the boundary between Living Memory and History is creeping closer to my own personal timescape.

When I was wee, all of the adults around me had been adult during WWII and some had been adult during WWI. When I first read Flambards, I was cross that my Grandmother had not taken up with a romantic pioneering aviator in the days when you measured flights in the hundreds of yards. And now that’s a century ago and the chance to talk to anyone about the days before the First World War has slipped from my grip; soon the chance to talk to people involved in WWII will have slithered away as well.

It’s not just that the baby-boomers are old farts now, though that has something to do with it. It’s not that I could tell a friend that I regretted not throwing a party to celebrate being 33⅓ and have her wonder out loud why I’d pick such an odd age to celebrate. It’s not that I have colleagues who were born after John Lennon died, or that the USSR imploded almost twenty ago and that Diana has been dead for a decade, or any of the things catch one by surprise with the sneaky way time tiptoes past.

It’s the shifting of my mental map. I am used to WWII and Suez being just over there, in spaces I cannot quite reach myself, but this person standing by me can reach out and touch them for me. And the future is over there on that side and no-one can touch that of course, though anyone can press their nose up against the glass.

But there are fewer and fewer people anywhere who can touch WWII and Suez and only one I can think of who is standing anywhere near me; and we are all living in the future now. Neuromancer was published 23 years ago.

11 responses to “Living Memory

  1. I love this post. It’s that simple. Ok, and I’m too tired to make a comment that’s more profound!

  2. I know exactly what you mean. Nelson Mandela was released 17 years ago! That just makes me feel old.

  3. I met the new 3rd year students tuesday. It’s odd that some of them might be younger than my offspring.

    Not that I mind getting older. I love my life experience and my wrinkles. I just don’t feel much different than I did ten years ago, or twenty. It’s just the decay of my body that reveals me.

  4. Our generation was raised by the people who actively lived though world war II and through them, we feel like we have been there ourselves. Their memories have become our memories. Our kids don’t have these and they don’t even have the Vietnam memories, which we don’t talk about, at least I don’t hear their American father talking about it, while he was there at the beginning. History gets lost to the generation after us. I was nine when JFK was shot and that is no big deal to my niece who is fourteen. Granted, we are Europeans, but still, these were earth shattering events, Remember Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King? It only happened yesterday, yet already things are becoming elusive and we have to say, remember when? Whatever happened to? Nobody will be there to remember!

  5. My father shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of George Washington. People used to throw lifelines into the past like that, trying to bridge the unbridgable.

    At least now we know why Grandma went on and on about “when I was a little girl…” She was trying to read her life into the human record. Makes you want to grab kids and bellow, ” I come from another world! Once, all of this was different”

  6. My grandmother’s great-grandfather was born in the reign of Queen Anne.

  7. You’re really old when you do a Caesarean on a patient whose umbilical you cut 20 odd years ago.

  8. insert: “cord”

  9. Born as I was in June 1969, my watershed moment is (or should be) obvious. When I was born, nobody had been to the moon. And yet, before I was old enough to understand the concept of “moon”, we stopped going there, and nobody has been there since. And today, a large proportion of the population of the nation that put men on the moon, don’t believe it ever happened. I mean, good grief.

  10. An excellent posting, as the song says ‘Funny how time slips away’. I was born in 1940 and can remember little about the war except for blackouts and a party to celebrate the end of WWII. My perception about time is that up to the age of 21 it went slowly but after 21 it seems to double its speed with each passing year.
    My grandmother born in 1882, did not have electricity in her house (in Liverpool) until 1953 I remember the gas mantles being lit, and getting the accumulator charged at the cycle shop to run the radio, also there were still city farms and her milk was delivered by the farmer using a horse and cart and the milk in churns.

  11. My father fought in WWII, and both my folks grew up in the depression. My grandmother went and demonstrated for suffrage in Kansas City, was arrested and put in jail for disorderly conduct. I am so glad I got to hear their stories.

    Meanwhile, when I was a little girl, ENIAC was new, most of us had party lines, all TVs were black and white. It blows me away to see what has happened in the interim. And through it all, I have lived in a home that was built purposely without power and running water (in Alaska at a time when it was expensive to acquire these things). So I have a feel for what the “frontier” lifestyle might have been like.

    I can’t help but wonder what is going to happen in the next 20 years.

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