A picture snapped a few minutes after this one hangs in a frame on the wall of my bedroom.
“I remember that!” Sam always insists.
“Sam, you were a baby. There is no way you actually remember that.” I respond.
“I do. That’s when my penis got pinched in that chair,” Sam always says.
“No, it’s not,” I reply, fulfilling our usual back and forth routine. “Your penis never got pinched in a chair. That has never happened to you—ever.”
“Yeah, it did on that trip. You told me.” He insists.
“I never told you that—ever. You made it up.”
In fact, he just walked in the room and I told him I was writing a blog post about him and pointed to the picture.
“Oh, about the time my balls got pinched in that chair?”
“NO!” I repeated—again, “That never happened!”
Each time I remind him that he was crying in the picture because he had sand on his hand…at the beach (imagine that, sand at the beach). More specifically, he was crying because at that age, Sam had perfected ruining every moment our family enjoyed.
What I remember from that day is my determination to get a picture of Sam sitting with Phillip in that chair. I would not take “no” for an answer. Sensing my strong desire to make him do something that was not his idea, Sam threw a fit. He didn’t take well to direction when he was a toddler. Sam was, well…a difficult child to say the least.
Over time, he has created his story about what he believes to have happened in this picture. He misremembered this story and it has become his truth.
I mean, it happens. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor of psychology and social behavior at University of California Irvine School of Law was on Here & Now the other day talking about the Brian Williams issue. She affirmed that in fact we can, “visualize things, we can draw inferences of what could of happened or might have happened and sometimes those visualizations can get converted into something that feels like a genuine memory.”
Haven’t you ever heard someone tell a story and realize they are telling your story but claiming it as their own? Like maybe your spouse is telling a story at dinner with another couple and says something like, “…and then I said…” and you think—wait, you didn’t say that—I did! It happens, people.
I am sure it has happened to me. And, like Brian Williams, I am sure I have inadvertently told stories that belonged to those near me as my own. I feel like my blog posts have been sort of depressing lately, but here I am again thinking about the crazy way our society has become so polarized.
When I was watching the Grammy’s, I couldn’t believe that Chris Brown was nominated and then not 10 minutes later there was a piece raising awareness for domestic violence. Or, what about sports figures who get away with outrageous behavior and still make millions (no sport ignored and no criminal behavior exempted—domestic violence, gun charges, fighting, intimidation, sexual assault, you name it).
Brian Williams was in a life-threatening scenario, covering the war. He watched another copter get shot down. I mean, he can’t really report that he shit his pants (although Al Roker has reported this before) as he watched in horror. I don’t know…I am not saying Brian Williams was right in what he did, but I don’t think he did anything with intention. I don’t think it was malicious behavior or designed to insult anyone or diminish the efforts of those who were actually shot down. I think it just, well..can happen. Kind of like sharting. Just ask Al.