Memory is such a strange thing.
My mother can remember what I served for a meal when she visited my house in 1985. She’ll pick up a cake stand in my china cupboard and ask me if Ruby Hardin gave it to me for a wedding present (1983). I tell her I have no idea. I’d have to get out my wedding album and look it up. No real need to do that–she’s sure of it. Pick a winter by year (or a summer), and she can tell you the weather patterns and average temperatures.
My father, on the other hand, watched re-runs of Hawaii Five O for years with the same sense of suspense as the first time around. He insisted they were “all new to him.”
I seem to have inherited more of my father’s memory ability than my mother’s, and although I never forget a face and am the reigning house champion of a game I invented called “where have you seen that actor before?” (Yes, the “other woman” in Tombstone is also the “other woman” in House Sitter), it bothers me that so much of my life has just been forgotten.
I never thought I would forget the days I’ve spent with my family–playing, traveling, home-schooling– but I have to admit a good chunk of them are lost in the gray matter that is fast turning to mush in my aging head.
John Boy Walton had the answer of course–write it down.
Writing a journal is something that I have aspired to at various points in my life. This is how I know that I have forgotten things, because I’ve read about some of them in the few pages that I’ve written and said, “Wow! I’d forgotten all about that!” And yet it is a discipline I can’t quite keep.
Back in college, my room-mates and I had a calendar that had a bit of lined space on each day, and one of us, for some reason, started jotting down things that happened. We chronicled the “near dates,” the wacky dorm parties, and the day that one of my roomies shaved her legs (it didn’t happen often, so was a major “call the media” event). To this day, the mention of “the calendar” brings a smile to our faces. It is kept in a safe place and brought out at every reunion.
I started another calendar this year when I was given a similar one by the gas company, but I find myself writing things like. Hot. Paid bills. Did laundry. Cleaned floors. Who cares?
And if something truly interesting (or horrifying) happens, there isn’t enough space to go into detail. “EMG–a new definition of hell” might be an adequate summary but lacks the details that will make a good horror story to tell the grandchildren. No, there is nothing like taking the time to actually write down a narration of events and your thoughts about them while they are fresh in your mind. Would it be so very hard to write a bit each evening as John Boy did? Apparently so, as my journal seems to skip 7 years at a time.
I wonder what happened in those seven years. Photo albums help a bit. Oh yes, we had Christmas and birthdays…and Christmas again….and…and…birthdays.
Videos help even more, as we have the details saved on tape–what the voices sounded like, the quirks of personality that can’t be captured in a photo, and of course the actual happenings. But sometimes the videos themselves leave huge unanswerable questions–the “whys” of the event. I mean, why did I throw a loaf of bread at Kevin when he was filming the boys playing in 1993, while I was on the phone in the background. Why?
For want of a journal, the “why” is lost.
by Jodi Bowersox© 2006