Time Warp?

Does time really warp memory? Now that I'm 51 and counting, I wonder how many of my childhood memories are real and how many are embellished by time.

Memphis, my hometown, had snow yesterday. My sister and her family were so excited, as snow is a rare occurrence in Memphis. Then why do I remember many snows from my childhood? We have home movies of my sister and me having snowball fights and building snow forts. Did Memphis really have more frequent snows when we were growing up, or did Dad take the home movies of them because they were so rare?

My general feeling of snow in my childhood is that it was not frequent, but it was not rare, either. I didn't look on it as a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence; I expected it every once in awhile. My son-in-law, Chris, denigrates the idea that Memphis ever gets snow. I had to pull out pictures to prove it. Yes, we had snow. Plows - no. Snow - yes.

So I decided to do some Internet research. I can research a medical term with quick success, but trying to track down the snow history of Memphis was quite difficult. Everyone assumes when you ask for weather information that you want the forecast. Even typing in "history" gives me things like "This Day in Weather History," not at all the information I desire.

I did come up with the history of snow in Memphis on Christmas Day, however, from a study at Oak Ridge Laboratories in Tennessee. Here is what they said:

Records that go back to 1889 show that Memphis had a measurable amount of snow on Christmas only once in 107 years. That was in 1913 when 3.5 inches of snow fell on Christmas Day (1.4 inches was on the ground at 7:00 a.m. that day). Trace amounts (only a few flakes - not enough to measure), fell on seven occasions - 1914, 1918, 1926, 1948, 1975, 1980, and 1992.

There has been a few times when there was snow on the ground Christmas morning (from previous storms). The greatest was 1963 when 10 inches covered the city Christmas morning; 1962 had 2 inches on the ground, and there were patches of snow scattered around on Christmas morning in 1966.

Now this research only covers Christmas Day, not whole winters, which, of course, would have had more snow than this. However, the dates are significant. The 1960s. I consider this the decade of my childhood, basically when I was old enough to create memories, but before I was inducted into the semi-adult world of high school. So, yes, those home movies were not some technological manipulation of my Dad and his film splicer. Those were real snows and I was really enjoying them. My memory is vindicated.

And the walk home from school was long, too. So there.

As for my husband Ed, I'm not sure about his memory. When we shared our first Christmas together, we pulled out the stockings of our childhoods. The size of my stocking was generous, with a wide opening and wide foot, enough room to stuff whatever Santa had in mind. Ed's stocking was limp, skinny, with a hole at the top in which I could barely stick my small fist.

At the very beginning, Ed let me know what "Santa" should put in his stocking. Fruit and nuts. Besides the fact that such a Christmas offering would make me gag unless there was plentiful candy and other goodies accompanying it, I couldn't understand how Santa had given little Eddie his fruit and nut delicacies when he had to get them through that tiny opening in his stocking. I did not see how it was physically possible.

Then I learned more - Santa had not only brought him oranges and apples, but the oranges had always been navel oranges and they were GIANT. Huge, oversized, heavy, juicy navel oranges. Now, it was hard for me to stick a regular little orange in his pitiful stocking - but no way had a huge navel orange ever resided there. Couldn't happen, didn't happen. Physics or whatever science supervises that area of space and size would not have allowed it. I maybe could squeeze a couple of small apples and one small orange into it and that would be it. His stocking would then take on the appearance of an engorged snake who had just eaten several frogs which one could see as bulging lumps in his body.

To this day, Ed swears he got those giant navel oranges in his stocking every Christmas when he was growing up. He can't explain how he himself can't fit even one big orange in there today.

Next time you hear about the "magic of Christmas," don't scoff. If there can be snow in Memphis and giant oranges in Ed's skinny little stocking - anything can happen!