You Know What They Say About Assuming Things, Don’t You?

You know the old catchprase: You should never assume, because when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me? I assumed until this morning that it happened on an episode of Laverne and Shirley. But then I realized I was wrong, does that make me an a**?

As you’ll see below, the clip is from The Odd Couple. The woman on the witness stand looks somewhat like Shirley from Lavern and Shirley, so I suppose that’s where I came up with that idea. But never the less, I assumed my memory was right. But I’m no bigger of an a** than anyone else. We’re all guilty of these type of memory assumptions.

Thankfully we have the Internet and I could check the facts, but for other memories we’re out of luck. When your sister recounts a memory one way and you remember it another, say that your family had pet duck instead of a pet goose, it’s her word against yours.

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Our brain is far from a machine and makes assumptions in how it retrieves information all the time. Sometimes it’s because it’s easier to remember Laverne and Shirley, a show you watched when you were a few years older than when you watched The Odd Couple. Other times it’s because you want to smoothe the memory over a bit. A duck wouldn’t have trapped you in the shed like that.

And sometimes, memories become favorite stories and we aren’t even remembering what happened in the past, but instead recalling the last time we told the story. As we retell the story, the memory fades in favor of the storytelling.

Memoir and Memory

A memoir is a piece of writing that is about the writer’s experience, written through memory. A memoir is different from an autobiography in that a memoir covers just a portion or certain time periods of a person’s life, often around some theme.

Memoirs include true accounts while fiction is meant to be made up. Since a writer’s memory is not perfect, some people wonder how a memoir can be true. For most memories, except those that can be looked up one You Tube, it is impossible to verify every fact.

But when I’m trying to write memoir, I write as if my memories are true because they are emotionally how I remember my life. When I can, I’ll research aspects of what I’m writing about, and I tell the reader when I’m not 100 percent sure. But I believe memoirs are an important genre of writing because they tell us how people filter and experience their lives and what they learned from their past to keep moving forward.

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As for the other memories that you and others don’t see eye to eye on, there will never be a way to prove who recalls the experience exactly the way it happened. We are all bound to our own perceptions and assumptions of the world around us. All we can do is tell the story we know with truth and honesty. Just don’t assume you’re always right. Except when that a duck was clearly a goose.

Originally published at catherinelanser.com on March 4, 2019.

Narrative nonfiction and memoir. Querying my memoir about my family, told through the lens of brain tumor and father’s stroke. www.catherinelanser.com

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