Elsie had a tempestuous childhood relationship with her sister and this troubled her well into her adult life.
She told me of an incident in her childhood. Her father had returned from a business trip with presents for the girls: two dolls. One had a red dress and the other a blue dress.
Elsie decided that she wanted the one with the red dress. But she knew that, if she said so, her sister would say, “No, I want the one with the red dress”, and her mother would say, “Now, Elsie, be nice and let your little sister have the one she wants”.
Elsie realised in a flash that she had to say she wanted the one with the blue dress. She said so and her sister duly responded, “No, I want the one with the blue dress”. And, of course, her mother said, “Now, Elsie, be nice and let your little sister have the one she wants”. Elsie, nice as pie, let her younger sister have the one in blue so she could have the one she really wanted.
Now, the point of the story isn’t whether or not that was a bad thing for Elsie to do. Or even, why Elsie needed to tell this story to all and sundry. It is that, many years later, Elsie’s parents discovered a box full of “home movies” in the attic. Her father took them to be transferred onto VHS tape and it was agreed that Watching The Old Films would be a special Christmas Day entertainment.
The day rolled around, and the audience was duly seated on sofas, chairs and the floor. The tape started. To Elsie’s surprise, it included a sequence of her father presenting his daughters with two dolls. Her surprise turned to shock when she realised this was the very incident about which she had been telling everyone for years.
And the dolls’ dresses were the same colour!
In other words, Elsie had created a provably false memory of an incident―for what purpose? I suggest she did it to create additional evidence to bolster her belief, also much discussed by her over the years, that she was a Bad Sister.
Of course, Elsie may have, consciously or unconsciously, embroidered this story when she told it to me a few years ago. One might speculate she would have done so to convey to me she had a degree of honesty and openness which were not always otherwise apparent.
And, I might have, consciously or unconsciously, embroidered it in telling it to you (though, if I have, it would have been solely for the purpose of better making my point that our memory is fallible beyond the degree to which we believe it is fallible).
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2018 Jeremy Marchant Limited . added 12 march 2018 . image: Free images
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