According to Merriam Webster the definition of memory is the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms.
Memory has been on my mind as my mother-in-law loses more and more of hers. Who we are is wrapped up in where we’ve been and the experiences that form us, but when the weave of those threads loosens, frays, or finally wears completely away, the person left behind seems much like a hologram. Their image is three dimensional and visually obvious, but lacking in the substance that made them who they were.
That got me thinking that if its so hard for adults to understand and accept those close to them who are dealing with dementia and or Alzheimers, how can children understand it. So I did some research in one of my favorite places-the children’s room of the library. And found some excellent picture books that deal with the topic in caring and very loving ways. One in particular pulled at my heart strings and I would recommend it even if you don’t have a loved one who’s losing their memory. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas, is a heartwarming story of friendship.
That’s the question Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge asks when he finds out that Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, his most favoritest of favorite persons, has lost her memory.
He’s given many answers.
“It is something you remember,” said his father.
“It’s something warm, my child, something warm,” said Mrs. Jordan who played the organ.
“Its something from long ago, me lad, something from long ago,” said Mr. Hosking.
“It’s something that makes you cry, my boy, something that makes you cry,” said Mr. Tippett who was crazy about cricket.
“Its something that makes you laugh, my darling, something that makes you laugh,” said Miss Mitchell who walked with a wooden stick.
“Its something as precious as gold, young man, something as precious as gold,” said Mr. Drysdale who had a voice like a giant.
So Wilfrid Gordon takes it upon himself to sift through his own rememberings and find objects that fit all of those qualities, so he can give Miss Nancy her memory back.
He collects a shoe-box full of shells, a puppet on strings, the medal which his grandfather had given him, his football, and a fresh warm egg from under a hen. Then Wilfrid calls on Miss Nancy and gives her each thing one by one.
What a dear, strange child to bring me all of these wonderful things, thought Miss Nancy, and she starts to remember. Her memories of those things are different from Wilfred’s, but through those objects she’s able to reach memories previously lost to her. When she reaches Wilfrid’s football, Miss Nancy remembers how it was that Wilfrid and she met and all the secrets they’ve shared.