Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Details, Details

I have a horrible memory, especially when it comes to my childhood. I know I had a wonderful, happy upbringing, but sometimes I can only grasp the fuzzy edges of a family vacation or a funny moment from my past. My sisters will say, "Remember the time when we...", and sometimes I only have a vague recollection of the event. It's as if I wasn't really there, as if I only witnessed the event as an onlooker instead of being an active participant. I think it's because I'm often not fully present in the moment; I always seem to have something else on my mind. I can't imagine what that "something else" was when I was little (Did I get my homework done? Does so-and-so like me?), but I know that it can still be an issue with me now.

The vivid memories that I do have must really have made an impact on me, for one reason or another. I can clearly remember the first time I was scolded in school. It was 5th grade, and we were cleaning the classroom at the end of the school year. My job was to straighten the library books. I wasn't quite sure what was expected of me, and I needed some clarification, so I called out for my teacher. "Mrs. Green?" No answer. "Mrs. Green? Mrs. Green?" Now, my teacher must have been pretty frazzled, and I'm sure she had a ton of report cards to finish, because she snapped. "I HEARD YOU, AMY! NOW WAIT UNTIL I'M READY TO ANSWER!" It took all the strength I could muster not to cry, and I don't think I was ever yelled at in school again after that.

The things that I remember most clearly are the events that conjured up an extreme emotion. The incident with Mrs. Green made me feel extremely ashamed. I have other memories of times that I was extremely happy, or extremely sad, or extremely nervous, or extremely embarrassed, etc... It's those smaller moments, the ones that didn't have quite the impact or importance, that aren't as forthcoming. It makes me sad, because although life has its fair share of bigger moments, I think it's the smaller ones that really define who you are. It's the smaller moments I want to remember most: picking blackberries with my grandmother at her cabin, climbing into my parents bed with my sisters when there was a thunderstorm.

There is so much I want to remember about Charlotte and Gavin at this age, but none of the things are momentous. The way Gavin presses his face against mine when I hold him over my shoulder, the noises he makes when he has to burp, how he curls his toes when I am feeding him. I want to remember how Charlotte squeaks when she is trying to wake up, how she turns her head up and to the left when she is sleeping, and how she lets her leg hang over the tub when I'm giving her a bath. I'm trying to be fully present with them, so I don't miss a moment. So when they are older and say, "Tell me about when I was little," I'll be able to describe some little detail about who they were, and why it meant so much to me.


  1. I read a study about childhood memory that showed that the date of the earliest memory (and presumably, the amount of accumulated childhood memories) depends in part upon the role of the mother in encouraging memory-forming processes like talking about events after the fact, verbalizing them and then referring to them later: "Remember the time..."

    Not that it's your mom's fault! But I think that our memories depend more on what we do after the experience. In some ways, fully immersing ourselves in an experience at the time might even prevent us from remembering it clearly because memory is often tied to words - in order to remember, we have to detach a little bit and verbalize the experience. Senses (especially music and smells) and emotions are a great way to retrieve the memories that we may not have stored in verbal memory.

  2. Meme 101: A meme is a blog-post idea, usually involving some kind of list, that people spread around the blogosphere by tagging others. It might by "five weird things about me" or a list of interview questions - anyone can make them up and then tag other people.

    Sometimes people "steal" tags too - just decide to do a meme that they like, even though they haven't been tagged. It's considered polite to leave a comment on the blogs of the people you're tagging just to make sure they know they've been tagged (but not everyone remembers to do that).

  3. I think that's why blogging (and other writing) is so important. We forget so much unless we write it down. I'm enjoying your blog.


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