A lot of my key memories of my childhood aren’t really mine. They are of incidents that I don’t have my own memory of, but which I talked about and laughed about with my parents so many times that they have become canon. I suspect this is pretty common: most of the memories that most people have of their early childhood are not authentic.
But some are. And the reason I know this is because there are little incidents that I never told anyone else about — so there has never been this reinforcement that you get from do-you-remember-when and what-about-the-time-when. A trivial example: I remember stopping in a cafe with my mum when we were shopping, smelling real coffee for the first time, and being mesmerised by the tanks of juice with their paddles constantly churning. I would have been very young: maybe two, perhaps three years old.
Another example: I remember when I was about six years old, my parents threw out an old piece of furniture — maybe a bookcase — and that while it was sitting in the back garden waiting to be disposed of, it occurred to me that you could fix pram wheels to the corners, and it could be a kind of giant go-kart for several children at once to sit in. This is the first time I have ever told anyone that not-very-exciting nugget of my childhood.
How much is our perception of ourselves built up from other people’s memories of us? And how much is our own memories of how we perceived things?