August 11 Slice of Life Challenge: Ten Years Ago

Last night, I started reading the book What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty. The premise of the book is this: A woman, named Alice, hits her head and loses her memory of the last ten years of her life. She wakes up on the floor of a spin class, thinking the year is 1998 (when it’s 2008), thinks she is 29 years old (she’s 39), and thinks she is pregnant with her first child (she has had three children).

Alice finds herself trying to figure out who she is, and how she wound up with the life she now seems to inhabit–something we all stop and think about now and then, don’t we?

I struggle with memory — I’ve written about it often. I even started a short story abot a woman who hits her head while camping, then wanders the woods for years, not even realizing that time is passing. (Coincidentally, I named my character Alice. This weirds me out a little).

As Moriarty’s Alice begins to piece together her life, I find myself thinking about my own life ten years ago. What if I woke up on the floor of a spin class, thinking it were 2005? First of all, I would be equally as surprised as Alice to find myself in a spin class at all… but that’s besides the point.

Where was I in August of 2005? What was I doing? Who was I?

I don’t remember a lot… but here’s what comes back to me:

  • Brinton and I lived in New York City, in a tiny apartment in Morningside Heights. Now we live in an idyllic neihborhood in the mountains of Vermont.
  • We had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, but of course we had really been together for six years. We just celebrated our eleventh year of marriage.
  • We didn’t have a dog, no kids, no car. Now we have a dog, two kids, two cars.
  • I tried to plant a window box filled with pansies that summer, and they all died within days. (Meanwhile, pansies are growing everywhere in NYC, around lamposts, garbage cans…they can’t possibly be so frail!). I have an actual, real life vegetable garden now.  I still have trouble keeping flowers alive.
  • We bought a big, soft couch at Macy’s, our first ever piece of new furniture — without taking measurements. That couch quite literally FILLED our apartment. It’s in our basement now with plenty of space, and still looks huge.
  • I think that was the summer that I started the doctoral program. I have memories (not so pleasant) of whistfully staring out our apartment window at the beautiful sunny tree lined street, and then turning to a thick booklet of printed out research articles with a sinking feeling of dread.

As I sit, trying to recover memories from a summer ten years ago, it comes to me in little flashes and snippets, much the same way Alice’s current life is coming back to her in clues and snapshots. It becomes clearer and clearer to me that while everything has changed, so much is still the same. My life couldn’t be more opposite than it was ten years ago, but at the core, so much is the same. I wonder if the book is going to head toward the same conclusion.

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8 thoughts on “August 11 Slice of Life Challenge: Ten Years Ago

  1. What an interesting writing challenge, to try to remember from 10 years ago! It makes me wonder if people with amnesia/these type of brain injuries, although unable to know the present, remember the past with clarity (unlike most of us with so-called “normal” brains)? I loved this line, “It becomes clearer and clearer to me that while everything has changed, so much is still the same.”

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  2. I think it is fascinating that the character in this book is Alice, that you wrote a story about memory and your character was Alice and recently was published an excellent book about Alzheimer’s disease called Still Alice. Do you think there is some subliminal comparison to Lewis Carroll’s Alice? She falls through a hole and ends up in an unfamiliar place.

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    1. Haddon, I agree! It’s the first thing I thought when I made the connection! I actually thought about Alice in Wonderland when I named my character, and In What Alice Forgot the character Alice says she feels like Alice in Wonderland. In Still Alice, pills/medicine play such a big role — like the tea cakes to make you bigger and smaller…

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  3. I’ve always had a terrible memory and I count on other people to fill in the gaps for me, which is kind of tragic because I’m sure their take on an event is different from mine! I’m convinced that my poor memory is connected to my hearing loss but who knows? When I think about my life ten years ago, I can fill in the big details but not the little ones…
    PS I have a daughter named Alice. 🙂

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  4. Very interesting challenge, and interesting to reflect, too, on all the change. I was one year into working at a school where I would ultimately work for eight years, and so much was really different for me. I think we remember things so much better when we write about them. That kind of reflection is hard to beat!

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