Your Childhood Memories Are Probably Fake

We’re surprisingly unreliable narrators of our own life story

Sarah Griffiths
Published in
5 min readSep 7, 2018


Photo: FilippoBacci/Getty

I’I’m standing under the porch of our old redbrick house on the outskirts of London, a rickety fence to the left propping up unwieldy roses, and in front of me, my nana crouched down with her hands resting on her knees, smiling encouragingly at me to walk toward her. She’s wearing a red cardigan and tan-rimmed glasses, her light-colored hair curly and neat. The lines on her freckled face are vivid, and they crinkle around her eyes as she beams up at me.

My memory lied to me.

This is one of my earliest and fondest childhood memories, from when I was four, but it’s also tinged with sadness. Years later, after my grandmother died, I was leafing through photos stashed in a box above the fridge. Suddenly, there she was on the glossy paper, with the same joyful expression—the neat curly hair, bright beaming face, those wrinkles, her beautiful smile.

My memory lied to me. My memory told me I saw her face in that moment on our front porch, but actually I had remembered it from this photograph. I felt confused and disappointed, mingled with something that felt like grief — like the moment I realized a boyfriend had been cheating.