We’re hard at work putting together the December/January issue of the print magazine, which means my list of stuff to do is full of cryptic, single-word notations, rather than my usual explanatory phrases jotted down thoughtfully. Without the list, I’d forget so much, but even taking 45 seconds to write the list seems like a poor use of time. But I don’t trust my memory the way I used to and so I scrawl “just enough” into my notebook to stay organized.
Memory is funny—we spend so much time talking about it and working to improve it and yet, when we actually need to access it, we sometimes are bad at it. I’ve listened to quite a few podcasts lately (Serial and Someone Knows Something are two I’ve enjoyed) that deal in themes of how a person’s memory can fail or fade, especially in stressful situations. There’s lots of science exploring false memories, and recent research even suggests false memories can help people in unfamiliar situations.
Recently, I had the chance to share some memories about my dad with a friend I’ve only known a few years. Through talking about him, I eventually got chatting about what life was like growing up as a west coast kid living in a small town where industry and economy was dictated by resources. My dad logged, hunted, fished, and worked various jobs: on fish boats, at the pulp mill, in the bush, eventually settling on repairing furnaces and boilers—work he’d learned in the Navy.
I have a memory of him that has such startling clarity, I feel like I’m watching a movie. Dad would come home from work, wearing the exact same outfit he always did: a navy polo shirt, work jeans, pull-on work boots, wool socks. He’d come in through the basement door, take off his flannel, plaid, lined work jacket. He’d head directly down the hall to the laundry room and wash his hands in the concrete basin using a scoop of powdered Sunlight detergent. Once “clean”, he’d take a glob of Vaseline and smear it into his work hands to try and soften the callouses and prevent dryness. He’d clap his hands together, and they would make a particular squooshy sound. As a six year old, I loved watching this ritual. It must have signalled that Dad was home for the day.
If I asked my brother or my mom about this, there’s a great chance they wouldn’t have the same memory at all, or that the memory would be different than mine. But this memory forms a really important part of how I remember my dad, and in how I organize my thoughts about him; it is an example of the hard work I know he put into his jobs.
This month on Tenth, if you haven’t already guessed, the theme is Memory. We’d love to hear from you about your memories, ways you use them, and perhaps even some recollections of the New Westminster of days gone by. We’ve got some posts ready to give you advice on how to share and preserve those memories, and I’m hoping to bring you some in-depth articles I’ve been working on that will hopefully jog your memory and compel you to act about situations facing our community, such as seismic mitigation of schools or transportation.
One last thing: 2016 Remembrance Day Service
New West’s Remembrance Day service is outdoor, at the cenotaph located in front of City Hall at 511 Royal Avenue. The service will commence at 10:30am. Parade assembly is at 10:25am at Queens Avenue and 6th Street. Wreath pick up from tent on City Hall front lawn begins at 9:00am. All members of the public are invited to attend. For more information please call 604-527-4581 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.