Psych 101: memories and lies

I was 28 years old and starting college. I had never really been a student before. I started working as an actor just before I turned four, so school always came second. Sure, I went to school sometimes, but it felt like something I did just to fill the time until my next job, like cross-stitch or tennis lessons.

But as I neared my thirties, I figured it was time to try that thing that other people did – get educated. I bought a backpack and a lot of pens.

The school thing went okay. Socially, it was challenging. I tried to just fade into the background but people would yell “Hey, Doubtfire girl!” from down the hall, and then they’d get nervous and run away when I turned around. I didn’t really have friends, but that was okay — I had all those pens.

I took an Introduction to Psychology class. The professor came into the room on the first day, shuffling a stack of impressive looking papers while extolling the importance of early childhood experiences on the adult psyche.

She asked us all to recall our earliest memory and share it with the random stranger next to us. I couldn’t have been more offended by the intimacy of this assignment if I had been asked to whip out a nipple for my seat-mate.

The truth is, there is footage of my earliest memory.

cottonelle

I am on the set of a Cottonelle toilet paper commercial. A man is standing on a ladder, pouring a cardboard box full of cotton balls on my head. The commercial will be in slow motion: me with my unusually large eyes, joyously attempting to catch the fluffy cotton balls that rain down on me. I’m thinking it’s strange that this grown man’s job is to dump cotton balls on my head. My job also feels ridiculous – catching aforementioned cotton balls – but I am barely four years old. I reason that it’s okay to have a silly job since I’m just a preschooler.

But that was just not a memory to share with a complete stranger on the first day. It would have led to more questions and the kind of attention that I was trying to avoid. I was already desperately attempting to blend in with kids who were 10 years younger than me, kids who didn’t have a husband and a mortgage and a 10pm bedtime.

So, I lied about my first memory.

“My first memory is of my grandfather,” I said to the teenager next to me, who was twirling her hair and trying to look interested.

“He was pacing the upstairs hallway of his house. He had a heart condition and was pretty much restricted to his bedroom and that one hallway. I was walking behind him, my hands clasped together behind my back, mimicking his gate and posture. He always sang these Scottish bar songs and he would close his eyes when he got to the high notes.”

This indeed is an early memory of mine – it’s just not the first. This particular memory appears to indicate that I am a born follower and some sort of copycat. And a liar.

What does it mean that my real first memory was on set?

I’m not sure.

Maybe it means that my identity as an actor is so deeply rooted that I can never completely rid myself of it.

Maybe it means that I always questioned the viability of acting as a long-term career for myself.

Or maybe it just means that trying to catch cotton balls is pretty fun.

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Here’s the whole commercial – if you are feeling nostalgic for Canadian toilet paper commercials from the 80s.

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14 thoughts on “Psych 101: memories and lies

  1. I don’t blame you to want to tell another first memory to a fellow classmate, their are too many judging faces out in the world. But at least you have been true to yourself throughout your life. I am sorry for all of those people that yelled out to you in the hall way nobody deserves to be treated like that.

  2. I didn’t realize you started acting so young. I’m not sure if you stated in a previous article but who were the main ones that pushed for you to act?

    • Thanks for the question, I should actually do a post about how I got started. Short version – a guy at a market in Toronto asked me to be in a commercial his company was casting. Working was more fun than school, so I was all for it!

  3. I have rebuilt my past many times and especially childhood memories. I say that I have rebuilt and do not say I lied about my memories, because in that reconstruction is always the real truth but otherwise decorated (like you did).

  4. Regardless of who you were in the past, who you are now is what matters. You seem to be pretty grounded for a former child actor, and maybe that has everything to do with your decision to leave Hollywood or maybe it doesn’t. Either way you did what was right for you and that’s what counts. Maybe it’s not a popular choice, but for you it was the right one so I say forget everyone else and live your life. As long as you love what you are doing, you are an inspiration for others, and I’m glad you are sharing your journey.

  5. Lisa, surely you’re getting bombarded by questions right now about Mrs. Doubtfire 2, and since I read all of your bloggings (is that a word?) I can surmise that you’re not interested, but isn’t it the least bit intriguing to you? I would imagine it would be kinda cool for you to reprise “Lydee’s” character and I’d bet it would be fun to contemplate the woman the character has grown into; who would know better than you? So, would you give it any consideration? Also, in situations like these, there’s nothing more deflating (as a fan) than seeing someone else play the follow-up role, and then we as the audience have to pretend the fake you is really you, (so to speak). Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts on this…

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • I have an upcoming post to address this a little more. The quick version is that if someone asks me to be a part of it, I don’t know what my answer would be, but I would be interested in finding out more about it. I am retired, but there are lots of things to consider and I would want to get all the information before making a decision! But I know what you are saying. I’m not sure how it would feel watching someone else play Lydia. She’s my girl!

  6. The story of your early life you related to us (intercepted at age three to become a child actor) reminds me somewhat of the movie “Citizen Kane”. The title character was swept away (also as a youngster) to a life of riches and adventure and fame. He ended rather badly while you did quite well, so the stories aren’t exactly parallel. Can you imagine, and if you could change time, would you go back and choose not to meet the gentleman about the commercial, and take a different path and just be a little girl, and a young woman doing what you pleased? Would your life be better or worse today? I suppose I mean do you believe the whole acting thing was an unhealthy deviation?

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