Will I ever be the same person I was before I fell on my wrist? In a word—NO, I will never be the same. I will never be the person I was before I fell down the Argentine Tango vortex. I will never be the person I was before I started freelancing, before my parents grew old & died, before I said goodbye to an old lover, before I wrote my first poem, before I received my first rejection letter from a literary agent, before, before, before…
Change is natural. Change is real. Change is inescapable. But it seems to be in our nature to fight changes, to frame things as a “new normal” or to rewrite the past to fit the current conditions of life. Nostalgia seems to be an important factor in the human condition. We frame our pasts like photos in an album and alter it with each revisit.
I just read the Peter Robinson novel ‘When the Music’s Over’ and, because one of its two crime plots revolves around Detective Banks pursuing a “historic” sex crime from the 1960s. The story had the ring of “ripped from headlines.” It’s a satisfying read for mystery fans. One of the characters is in the unenviable role of having to dredge up the worst moments of her life—being raped by a celebrity when she was all of 14-years-old. So memory, in all its manifestations, runs through the narrative.
When one character notes that every summer day of childhood is warm & sunny, and every winter of childhood has snow for sledding, I had to smile. Yes, I do remember more snow and more sunshine. I also remember the intensity of emotion—the hurt, the disappointment, the fear—that haunted me as a child and adolescent. I would not choose to go back even if I could have all that snow and sunshine to play in…
After reading the Robinson book, I’ve been dwelling on how, why & when we alter the narratives of our lives. I think some people alter their pasts to support their current status, assigning blame to lessen or erase culpability. This habit can offer a mystery writer a wealth of material.
These “tweaks” of the past can be as inconsequential as “I was picked last for the team and then won the game catching a fly ball in the 9th inning,” when the character was picked second to last and just felt slighted by so called friends. Of course other alterations in the past can come with serious implications, i.e. “she said yes, so sex was consensual” or “I was home with my grandma that night so I could not have been at the party when the kids bullied another teen toward his suicide.”
Memory & mystery… They do an interesting dance!