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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Monday, February 04, 2008

Write Back Weekend Monday "Memories, Like The Corners of My Mind"

For the first twenty- two years or so of my life, I prided myself on having a good memory. In fact, I find it ironic that having a good memory is one of the things I most remember about my "youth".

Not only did I recall things that pertained to me, I also recalled random things, usually related to pop culture trivia. For example, I loved to watch the Dateline blurbs where they'd give you three events and then they'd supply you with three different years those events could have occurred. Even before the years were revealed, I had a very good accuracy rate of guessing within a two or three year range. My mom was always amazed by this since many of the events were before my time. I could never really explain it, but it seemed as if I almost had a photographic memory for pop culture related dates and times. Now if only I had been able to do that for all of my studies in school I would have it made.

In the past eight years or so or though I have noticed that this talent has diminished somewhat. I say the past eight years because I know I can apply my lack of specificity to a certain decade, the 2000's. Say to me St. Elmo's Fire, I say back to you 1985. Remind me of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" debut, I can tell you the year was 1989. But ask me what year say A Beautiful Mind was released, and I can give you a time frame, but not the exact year itself, not without looking anyway. See those first twenty-two years or so remain ingrained in my brain. The last eight years or so, not so much.

There are a few different theories I have on this. One theory is that as we get older, the brain only has room to store so much, sorta like a closet. As a result, our short term memory needs to make room to fit everything in, so it starts picking and choosing, clearing out miscellaneous thoughts the mind deems expendable. This would explain why many Alzheimer's patients can't tell you what they ate for lunch, but they can tell you what they were wearing the day they met their wives back in 1952.

My other theory is also related to age, but in a different respect. I find that the older I get, the less impressionable I am. I can still tell you all about those first movies that I loved or those sleepovers that I had because they were such monumental memories to me, at least at the time. I can still hear certain songs today and instantly be transported to the time and place that song was popular. But the older we get, the less of those "milestones" there are to capture. Suddenly a new show, song or movie seems less memorable because YOU'VE been there and done it all before. Meanwhile some teenager, somewhere is obsessing over the likes of Gossip Girl the way I once oohed and ahhed over My So-Called Life.

And yet if either theory is true, our first memories, as asked of us from last week's TITMT, don't fall in line with this train of thought. Instead our first memories are often random in nature, not necessarily pertaining to anything monumental. It's almost as if that part of our brains was shut off and then one day, suddenly it was activated, just like that.

The very first memory I have is fuzzy, not unlike the footage you might see from an old movie. Whether or not I applied that to the memory as creative license isn't really important, but it is there. It's a memory of my nana, my dad's mother, who passed away shortly after the memory itself. She was sick with cancer and died in the early eighties so I never really got to know her as a grandmother, or as a person. I do remember though being about three or four and having this doll. It was a learning doll that had buttons, zippers and laces all over it in order to encourage children to explore these concepts. Anyway, I can clearly remember my nana hiding mints in the pockets of this doll. My mission, should I chose to accept it, was to figure out how to get those pockets unzippered, laced or buttoned so that I could get to my reward. It was pretty clever of my nana, looking back on it.

This is why memories are fickle. I know she died shortly after this, but her actual death I do not recall. Perhaps it was way too complicated of a concept for me to grasp at such a young age, so instead the mind made provisions for me, allowing me to hold on to a much smaller memory which in turn, served a much bigger purpose.

We may never know why remember things we want to forget and forget things we want to remember. All we know is that memories themselves, make us who we are today.

Remember that.



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