What I if told you that three days ago my entire world came crashing down around me when I learned that the memories of my entire childhood have been a lie? That everything I thought I knew to be true about who I am, how I grew up, and the general world in which I live is a construct of some cruel joke of the universe? Well, get ready, because that’s precisely what I’m about to do.
It happened during the course of a completely innocent and focused conversation about work, when a side comment was made that my brain couldn’t properly compute, and so I assumed it must have just been a joke, a slip of the tongue, or that the person on the other end of the phone must not have realized what they said; that they got their facts wrong. But when the comment was made a second time only a moment later and I paused to ask for further clarity, that’s when my jaw dropped and anything and everything else that might have required discussion for furthering my tasks at work took a back seat. For the first time in my life, I would learn that, not only was he invisible(?!?!?) for much of his life, but his name is pronounced Snuffleupagus, and not Snuffleufagus. What. Just. Happened?
Of course I took to Googling and fact checking this information immediately, and, sure enough, I have been saying it wrong for 40 years. It’s embarrassing enough that I am only finding this out now, but that no one corrected me ever before seemed even worse. That my friends, my family, everyone I’ve known with whom I’ve happened to hold a conversation in which Sesame Street was a topic, just let me go on like a fool! Imagine finding out you’ve had spinach in your teeth for four decades and no one told you; that level of betrayal is hard to stomach, so the moment I got home, I sought out my wife, whom I trust implicitly, for some much needed consoling.
“Alison, can I ask you something? It’s serious.” I began.
She put down what she was focused on. “Of course, my striking husband, you can ask me anything” she replied in a solemn and concerned tone.
“You know on Sesame Street how there was a big wooly mammoth character that would come around sometimes? Well, what was his name?”
“Oh, you mean Snuffleufagus? What about him?”
My heart fluttered at her reply…maybe the internet got it wrong! Maybe I’m not alone!
“And was he invisible to everyone but Big Bird?” I continued.
“What are you talking about? He was part of the whole gang; he wasn’t invisible. Are you okay?”
I proceeded to explain to her how my day had been derailed and showed her various articles from the internet highlighting the conspiracy underfoot. Regardless of what we say on our web browser, however, in that moment I was vindicated. My wife, whom I love whole heartedly, immediately untied every knot that had coiled up in my belly and removed every stone from my shoulders since earlier that afternoon. Not only was she as shocked as I to learn the truth around the one seemingly innocent letter change, she also was unaware that Big Bird’s friend, for much of his life, was only visible to Big Bird! Now, I don’t want to get all Truman Show conspiracy theory here, but something here certainly seems awry…
***Insert Clever Segue Here***
The Mandela Effect, for those not aware, is a social phenomenon in which large populations remember events and details from the past that never actually occurred, or perhaps occurred differently. It got it’s name after it was discovered that a segment of the population genuinely believed that Nelsen Mandela had died in prison some time during the 1980’s, when he in fact passed away in 2013. It’s a fascinating shared experience to dig into and there are likely more than a dozen memories that you and your closest friends will share that aren’t actually true.
Memories, like the one I have of the giant furry puppet, ingrained in me so vividly that simply aren’t true. There are many examples from my youth that seem to suffer this mass memory defect; you can look any of them up yourselves, though I encourage you first to ask yourselves and your family members these questions first:
- Is it The Berenstein Bears? Or The Berenstain Bears?
- Which eye does the Monopoly Man wear his monocle on?
- Is there a hyphen in the word Kit-Kat?
- Is it Febreeze or Febreze?
There are so many more of these in our pop culture that might blow your mind, from the famous misquoting of “Luke, I am your father” (spoiler alert for the original Star Wars trilogy, btw), or perhaps you vividly remember that famous part of the book when Curious George was swinging on a lamp post by by his tail? Nope. He doesn’t have a tail; he never did. What about coming home and watching the Flinstones at lunch? I did it every day, but I don’t remember it being spelled FlinTstones. Boom. Remember Shazaam, the movie starring Sinbad? That wild and whacky movie in which he played a genie from a lamp? So does half the population that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Well, it doesn’t exist.
It’s amazing how the course of one’s life can change through very unassuming conversation. I started my week believing the world to exist through one lens, and I am closing it out with a different understanding. It is admittedly not something that’s going to impact how I live my life, that part may have been a bit extreme; but it’s no less shocking to me.
Now, it’s probably best that I close this out here to let you digest everything that has just shifted in your life, but before you go, perhaps bring this with you: perhaps it doesn’t really matter how you remember something, just that you do remember the moments that mean most to you, however they take shape. They are your memories and bring a joy to you that no one else, including the internet, can take away. Whether it’s Looney Tunes, or Looney Toons, just like the first three words of this post, those tiny, mixed-up details don’t really change the overall narrative of what will follow. So, enjoy a day full of fond recollections and nostalgia, share a story or two from your past with a friend, or pop open an old photo album. For who knows? You may just gain a whole new perspective.