I have a distinct memory of riding an elevator with my mother when I was very small. The elevator's door was shiny and chrome. It reflected my tiny, then perhaps three-and-a-half foot tall frame wearing white shorts and a pink shirt. The elevator was in a hotel in Florida, and we were there to visit my great grandmother like we did every year before her passing.
At an elevator stop before we reached the lobby, a woman entered the elevator and struck up conversation with my mother. I don't know what she said to my mom, but eventually, she bent to my level and asked me, "Is this your first time in Florida, sweetie?"
For some reason, my very young self decided to deceive the woman. I said, "Yes," at which point my mom interjected, "No. We come every year."
I've been asking myself lately about the purpose of this memory. Why is this snapshot taking up space in my brain? Is it because the elevator doors were particularly shiny, or that pink shirt I'd been wearing was comfortable? Perhaps it stands out as my first discernible lie and therefore deserves a spot in my messy collage of memories.
Lately, I've been realizing that memories are not linear. Things don't come back to me in order from birth to this morning. Often times, especially when I write, I cherry pick from moments that stand out. Some of them are large, memorable things, like the events of high school prom weekend that involved toasting marshmallows, sleeping on the beach, and watching Star Wars after eating pepperoni pizza, stone cold sober. Others are small and seemingly useless, like standing in line at Disney World while my friend's grandmother described her time share in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
I'm wondering if we should adopt the memory collage as a viable structure for storytelling. Provided that writers maintain a thread, a theme, a connection of some sort, there should be no reason that the nonlinear narrative can exist in more than just fiction. Faulkner did it in "A Rose for Emily." Why can't I give it a try?