Is History Reliable?

Recently, I posted a story about a bat encounter that set off some subconscious memories of my childhood . The responses I received from my parents both reinforced my memories and questioned the accuracy of the details.

“You never mentioned your terrible night. This is almost unbelievable. Better to read than experience! One correction: when chasing bats, which always seemed to appear the first day of the racing season rental, I carried a clothes basket and a tennis racket. After gently knocking the bat to ground, I popped the basket over it, then slid a newspaper under it to keep it in until I could get it to the door and release it. The bat could not crawl through the small holes in the clothes basket.
love Dad”
“Dear Laura,
I had the benefit of hearing your story before you wrote it and your memories of the bat adventures are close to mine. I think bat adventures near racing season are partly true and had more urgency about them because of our tenant situation. However in my recollection, bat appearances could occur any time of year. Also Dad and I experimented with many methods and at one time we did use brooms ; tennis rackets became a later method. I think choice of method was determined by efficiency and consequence of harm to bat. We definitely put clothes baskets over our heads . They did double duty of self-protection and container. However a stunned bat often regained full function and would fly out of clothes basket.
Xo mom”
“It is funny how we each remember things in different ways. Is that how history changes? If you and I each tell a different story, a generation from now we could have different followers who would dispute the truth. How would one ever know which side of the story to believe?¬†
“Your question about reliability of memory and history is a critical one.
That is probably why it is important to collect as many versions of an event as possible.”


This exchange definitely had me thinking about the accuracy of history even if it is as short-lived as a current trial lawyer calling eyewitnesses to the stand. How do we know what is really true versus what is perceived to have happened or has been distorted due to outside influences of time and hearsay? I think the reminder to explore as many versions of the story is valid.
I tried an experiment on my own family. Over dinner one night, I asked my kids and husband about an event we all were of the age to remember- a trip to Disneyworld. My son came home with a trophy stuffed animal he won at an arcade game. The question was- how did he manage to win the prize? The discrepancies that came up were about how many other players there were at the table, whether his dad let him win, or whether he won legitimately. At this age, my son was willing to acknowledge that the game had been thrown, but until a few years ago, he had always insisted he won fair and square. My daughter never had any doubts about the situation, but there were differences in how many competitors were in the game.
Here is my suggestion to all my followers reading this blog, talk to your family about any meaningful event in your life and get as many sides of the story as possible. It could be an eye-opening conversation starter and bring some clarity to past events in your life- however trivial.