Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Texas Trip - Part 3 - the Personal Mythology

Okay, so lived in Austin for 2 years.  Then didn't go back for 15. 

When you don't go somewhere for 15 years, and basically lose touch with the people you knew there for many of those years (until Facebook came along - I love Facebook), there is a strange thing that happens.  At least it happened to me.  It started to feel like I was never there.  It felt like I had created this Personal Mythology that wasn't truly real.

Adding to this is the fact that I have a short memory.  Some people can remember every detail of events and every name of every person they meet for years and years.  I cannot.  I start to fade at about 5 years and by 10 years I have to work really hard to dredge up some memories.  At 15 years, I have vague memories at best.  I did learn on this trip that I'm spatial in my memories, though.  I can remember whereabouts in a city things are (not the actual details of what that thing might be, though), but not necessarily the exact location.  And in some instances, I had a restaurant- or block- layout confused.  My memory super power is the ability to remember the origin of almost every item in our house - where we bought it, who gave it to us, which grandparent left it to us.  I'm also very good at remembering artifacts I've seen in the past.  But memories of names and events are much more elusive.  And, let's face it, a city the size of Austin has changed between 1997 and now.  A lot of landmarks are different.

So, sitting here in Canada, it started to all feel like a myth I'd created to impress the new people in my life.  "Yeah, I lived in Texas for 2 years.  It was hot.  The people were nice.  There were these funny noisy birds called Grackles and a HUGE storm with THIRTEEN tornadoes hit us the week before I left (heh - turns out it was 20, my memory IS bad).  Yeah ... THAT'S the ticket!!"  It started to feel like I was making it all up.  Because before Facebook, I didn't have anyone to remenisce with (the people I knew ... and me, too, I suspect ... were not good at writing letters or making phonecalls).  And after reconnecting with Facebook, well ... we were actually talking about our lives NOW, not what happened so long ago.  So I didn't have anyone to say "Remember when we ....."  And without the collective memory, the details fade away and it feels like it never happened.

The Personal Mythology collapsed with this trip.  I got to see the people, hug them, hear their voices and with the prick of a pin, the balloon burst and it was no longer mythology, but back to fact.  And now I can talk about those people and places with my husband and he knows they are real.  Some reality confirmation.  I really can't wait 15 years to go back next time. 

Speaking of artifacts ....

We went to San Antonio on the 2nd and 3rd of April (Monday afternoon and Tuesday).  My husband had used the Institute of Texan Cultures as a case study in a course he taught and wanted to visit it.  So on Tuesday morning we went to take a look.  We do a lot of museums when we travel.  It is a great resource for Texas and expecially for school children - who were there in very noisy throngs.  Anyhow, they have a temporary display there right now on Texas Toys, so we went in there first thing as it was the first thing to see.  We were looking around - there were marbles (which I love and learned about in Texas) and then I saw ceramic doll parts.  There was a "Frozen Charlotte" doll (this one black, which I think is a bit odd) - something I had learned about when I worked on the artifact analysis and write-up from the Fanthorp Inn.  And then I looked on the shelf above the Frozen Charlotte and saw a naked doll with blue socks.  "Hey, that's like a doll I analyzed when I worked for Prewitts - I joked about it saying that it must be a boy doll because only a boy would be naked with only socks on - and no one at the office got my joke" (in retrospect, maybe they got it but didn't find it quite as funny as I did).  Anyhow, then I looked at the other doll parts and started to think they looked familiar, too.  As I looked at the tag on the artifacts, my husband looked over, saw me with my hand to my mouth and wondered if I was going to burst into tears right then and there in the museum (tears had happened a few times already on this trip).  Sure enough, the tag told me that they were indeed the very same artifacts that I had analyzed 16 years ago.  Personal Mythology:  POOF!!  I DID exist in Texas!  And a small part of me is still there.

Dolls from the Fanthorp Report, 1997

Dolls at the Institute of Texan Culture

Of course, being the historian/archaeologist, I have to post pictures to PROVE that it's not just further mythology!


  1. Oh, my gosh - that is a blast from the past! I remember you analyzing those dolls - and all the conversations we had about them.

    It was so great to see you and Noel last week! Facebook can be a pain with all of their changes, but it's been a great way to reconnect with you.

    1. Absolutely. I'd still not be in touch with so many people without Facebook. My own personal therapy!

  2. the nature of memory is rather mysterious to me as well. My Parents remember things totally different than me, and after being married for twenty years, sometimes I wonder if my wife and I were even on the same planet for a lot of those!


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