08 September 2008

the problem of memory

A few days ago I bought blackberries at the market. Every time we've had blackberries this summer, Greg and I have lamented the fact that we weren't able to visit his family in Washington this summer because of how badly the blackberries in NY pale in comparison to their west coast counterparts. (There are, of course, a million other [more important] reasons we're sad about not having a summer vacation in WA this year, but we do miss those blackberries.)

"Man," one of us will say, "I wish we were in Washington; then we could have buckets of blackberries for free, instead of $3 a pint, and those would all be ripe!"

"Yeah," the other will say, "these aren't nearly as sweet, and they're so small! You can't even do anything with so few blackberries!"

And so forth.

A couple of days ago, though, Greg chimed in with, "Remember the blackberry french toast we had at Tom's one summer?" When he saw the blank look on my face, he continued, "Remember? We picked a whole bunch of blackberries at my grandparents' house, and brought them to Tom's, and we made french toast and put all the blackberries on top? That was the most amazing french toast!"

I managed something like, "Well, I've had a lot of good french toast in my life."

"Come on," Greg pressed, "remember, we got to Tom's apartment -- not the one he's in now, not the last one, but the one before that -- and no one was home, so I broke in through the bathroom window and landed in the bathtub? Remember that time? We had that blackberry french toast on the same trip."

"Oh, yeah," I said weakly, "I think I remember that."

Readers, I was lying. I didn't remember it, I don't remember it, and doesn't that sound like something one should remember? Blackberry french toast can conceivably be forgotten, but I feel like I ought to remember my boyfriend breaking into someone's house through the bathroom window and landing in the bathtub. But it's a big blank instead.

Ten years ago, I had an amazing memory. I was an excellent student who hardly needed to study because I remembered almost everything from my classes and textbooks. I could have told you the middle names and birthdays and phone numbers and addresses of every single one of my friends, and a bunch of people I wasn't friends with too. My best friend and I had an intricate system of code names for practically everyone we knew and there was no need to write it down because there was endless space in my head for this sort of knowledge.

Today I have no memory to speak of. (I attribute this change directly to parenthood, by the way, and the lack of sleep that comes with it.) I see movies and can barely remember the plots a day later. I have trouble returning phone calls and emails because I forget that people have called or written me. Every single time one of my best friends from high school calls me, I fail to recognize her voice even though I've known her for fifteen years.

So I keep endless lists of everything, from grocery lists and library books to daily to-do lists and lists of upcoming events. I keep a list of possible menu items for dinners and school lunches. I leave myself written reminders to answer emails or schedule appointments or pay bills. If it's not written down, I will forget it.

That's part of the reason I started a blog. To chronicle and to remember all of my experiences in raising two very interesting children. I read back through my blog archives recently and was surprised by how difficult some parts of my life were, and how funny other parts were. Time has dulled my memory to a vague series of highlights, and it's so easy to forget the details. I don't want to forget.

I don't want to forget the hilarious lullaby James composed for Evan, telling him to go to sleep because his shirt was so beautiful. I don't want to forget the time that Evan refused to put on his shorts because they were too distinguished. I don't want to forget the way that James picks up and pockets every interesting rock he comes across, "interesting" being a very subjective term.

I don't want to forget Evan asking me to pick him up this morning. "What for?" I asked. He smiled and said, "For everything! For hugs and kisses!" And then I picked him up and he snuggled into my chest and it instantly became one of those moments I never want to forget.

I can't trust my human memory that much anymore. But I can trust what I write here. So this post is a reminder to myself to write more, to capture these moments, these swiftly fleeting childhood days, and through recording and remembering, to appreciate them more.


kim said...

I am so glad you're blogging regularly again (wish I could get up the brain power to do so myself!). Jon and I have had outright fights about whether or not we've seen movies together - he'll swear I was there watching a film with him and I am certain I've never seen said film in my entire life - who knows which of us is remembering wrong? While I think having kids does kill enough brain cells to cause memory loss, I think it's also an effect of just plain aging. I used to have an amazing memory in high school as well and it started to noticeably decline in college or shortly thereafter, years before I had kids. Since you started having kids around this stage in life, you probably just got a double whammy.

Jessica said...

Beautiful, Heidi.

Anonymous said...

that's such a touching entry. and don't worry about the endless lists - i do it too, in fact, i'm totally lost without them. it's just cause it's difficult to keep such an amount of information and errands etc in your head, especially when there are so many things to take care of.
much love,