I remember a plaid pink swimsuit. It was a one piece with ruffles on the stomach. I remember a sun hat, but I can’t picture what color it was. I remember a windy beach morning, padding across the sand on stubby toddler legs. I think it was California, but it could have been any stretch of sand on any coastline. I remember chasing a flock of birds, all black feathers and wings and beaks and claws. They swarmed upwards in great gusts as if some giant blew them from their perches. I was mesmerized by how they all moved as one, by how the movements of each individual bird flowed into the next one, and the flock appeared to be one seething cloud instead of many living things. I chased, they settled. I giggled, they cawed. I don’t remember if I ever caught one.

Actually, I’m not even sure this memory is real. It feels very real to me, and I can picture myself on a California coast, maybe in January. Or maybe it’s a false memory, constructed from stories and pictures and my own wild imagination.

But does that matter? My memories shape who I am; my memories are the basis for how I experience and react to the world. Does it make it any less significant to my identity if it’s not actually true?