Friday, August 14, 2015
Things are not always what they seem. Memory isn't either.
When I was young I lived at a place called Seward Junction. Literally a crossroads. We lived upstairs over a Texaco (later Exxon) gas station at the intersection of Texas Highway 29 and U.S. Highway 183 in Williamson County somewhat between the towns of Leander and Liberty Hill. The location is now, I believe, within the Liberty Hill City limits, for whatever that is worth.
My father's family, the Sewards, had owned the property surrounding the intersection since sometime in the 1860's, hence the name, Seward Junction. It was pretty rural. For most of the time I lived there the nearest non-family neighbor was about a quarter-mile away in any direction. The piece of property my grandparents owned was about five acres at that time, including the service station and some land around it. Dad, (my grandfather) ran the garage and he and Mom (my grandmother) ran the store with some help from me as I got older.
We did some mowing from time to time. A little ways behind the store we had an overhead water tank made of stone that stored our well water. The water often had oil in it, so the overhead tank gave it a chance to separate out before the water went to the house. Every time we mowed we always had to steer around a large triangular flat rock lying on the ground near the water tank. Therefore, almost every time we mowed back there I heard the story of that rock and how it came to be there. Realize, now, that this is in limestone country, rocks are not rare. But a solitary large rock lying in the way like that on top of the grass seemed out of place.
It seems that the two roads were there in one form or another for a long time back into history. Highway 29 led from the Junction to Georgetown to the east and Burnet to the west. Georgetown was, and is, the county seat so it had some standing as a destination. Highway 183, on the other hand, ultimately ran from Refugio, Texas (almost Mexico) to South Dakota. When both of the highways were expanded and paved in the '30's signs were erected. There was an old stone standing near the road to Georgetown that said something like "Georgetown, 12 miles." The story went that the words were carved on the face of the stone. The road crew put it aside and my great grandfather asked for it. Ever since then it had lain facedown near our water tank and we mowed around it.
In my senior year of high school, 1968, Mom and Dad sold the store and we moved to the other end of the property where there was a house. We built a new garage for Dad and of course we had to move a lot of stuff. One day we got a couple of strong guys to help and we went to move that old milestone we'd been mowing around. We used a crowbar to raise it up from where it had sunk into the ground and flipped it over. There was nothing on it on either side! All this time we had been protecting a plain piece of rock! Dad was stumped. I felt a bit cheated.
Thinking about that I am often led to think of the impermanence and frankly untrustworthiness of memory. My son turns 40 today. Talking to him sometimes and remembering things in the past it often strikes me that we often remember the same events quite differently. This isn't about which is right. (Though of course I am. This is my blog, after all, he can be right in his blog! Lol!) What it is about is that we each have our own realities built from our own memories of events that may vary widely!
When I was very young I remember my grandmother singing and chanting children's verses to me. One was "This Little Piggy" playing with my toes. I'm sure everyone has heard some variation. Mom's was almost the same as the one in my Mother Goose book I had at the time. "This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none, this little piggy cried "wee, wee, wee all the way home!"
Fast forward a generation to when my son was a baby. Mom played with his toes as well. All of a sudden, her poem was "This little piggy says 'want some corn', this little piggy says 'where you gonna get it', this little piggy says 'master's barn', this little piggy says 'I want some', this little piggy cries 'wee, wee, wee, can't get over the door step!"
I was confused. I asked her "where did that come from?" Her response? "I've always said it that way!" I was puzzled. When I recited the way I remembered it she professed to have never heard that version. Now I was absolutely floored! Was she right? Was I? I now have no idea. There were other similar instances where she recited a children's song or poem I remembered from childhood but one or two verses were greatly different. I stayed confused.
I guess it all comes down to the fact that our experiences shape our realities, and our experiences are not the same, even if we shared the same ones and we think they are engraved in stone.
And I'm always right!