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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

I was going to write about something today but I forgot what it was.

In a bid to help move the process along, Kevin suggested writing about fish. Apparently we had fish? I vaguely remember it but not enough to write about.

He said we had a dual fish tank. I do not remember that at all. It’s weird how vivid so many things are in my head and how some things might as well have never happened.

I remember having a goldfish in college but it was a fish and then it died. It was a cute fish, kind of round and puffy. It lived in an octogonal tank on my desk and even survived a few semesters. But that’s about all I can tell you.

Memory is dumb. We swear things were a certain way when it is demonstrably untrue. Like remembering your mother let you eat three cookies when everyone else agrees it was four.

We remember things like the dream we had at four years old but can’t remember the fish tank or why we went into the pantry just now.

Kevin also sent me a picture of us in the back yard and in the background is a round table with a blue umbrella with white pompoms. If proof of its existence wasn’t in that photo I would have said we never had any such thing. He said when it rained, the umbrella collected so much water that we had to squeeze it out.

I remember hanging clothes but not squeezing an umbrella.

Sometimes if someone reminds you of something you say oh yeah!

This is not that time.

Sometimes if someone reminds you of something you conjure up a vague memory that could be true and you say hm, yeah… kind of.

This is not that time, either.

It’s like the umbrella was plucked from the brain cell in which it resided and deleted from my mental computer banks.

They say you don’t really forget things. Or maybe that’s just a myth. But I don’t have the energy to google it because I don’t feel like writing a term paper today. Still, it makes me wonder what we could access if we could actually access it.

Maybe someday someone will come up with a way to trigger all those lost memories so we can have a movie-reel recollection of our lives.

Maybe that wouldn’t be such a good thing. I think over time it’s probably a good idea to forget most of high school, a large chunk of college, and probably that dream you had when you were four.

I think over time we rose color everything, we sepia tone everything.

It’s part of why I started journaling in the first place. I mean, beyond the compulsion to narrate everything in my life, I always wanted to document things as they were, so if and when I ever looked back, I could see how it really was, not how I think it was.

Of course there is always a benefit to hindsight and perspective. When you’re in the moment of a thing it’s always hot. Emotions charge it then change it. But then, that’s part of what it was like to be in that experience. That’s the thing I want to remember, how it felt to be there.

They say (there “they” go again) you remember things better when there is an emotional charge. Maybe that’s why I remember the one time I got stitches from falling off my bike but can’t remember my father repeatedly making whiskey sours for the grown up women in my family. That’s another thing Kevin remembers, down to the commercial foam thing that he squeezed on top.

We were talking about topics for our blogs today and I suggested he write about libraries. We both love books and one day want a library-bar-den-room-thing in our houses. I told him to write about how our mother used to take us to the library all the time.

But he said he doesn’t remember it.

HE! Doesn’t remember!

I mean. He is like a human card catalog. If he doesn’t remember something, it’s a hole in the fabric of space-time.

Sometimes I remember things but I don’t know why. Phrases or sentences that have stuck in my head but have no source. Why are they there? Why are they taking up space where pompoms should be? They probably create static interference every time I walk into the other room and forget why I did it.

I remember in vivid technicolor playing jump rope to Strawberry Shortcake on the street outside school in fourth grade, but yesterday while I was getting my hair cut, I opened my mouth to ask the barber a question and the entire thing evaporated into thin air. I got out “Did” and then drew a complete blank, tried to reel it back in and cast again, to no avail. Had to admit I had quite literally forgotten what I was about to say before the second word came out of my mouth.

Memory is a slippery little eel. The more you try to grab onto it, the farther away it gets.

I guess you’ll never know what I was going to write about today, but then again, neither will I.

What should I write about so that in another… well, how long do I have left? Let’s be conservative and say twenty years. In twenty years if I want to reread my life, what would I want to remember?

I don’t want to look back in 20 years and remember how I was very efficient at scrubbing toilets at 7am. I don’t want to remember how many minutes I tracked in a day.

I do want to remember the number of hours the trucks beeped outside because then when someone says oh, you’re exaggerating, I can say nope… it’s in words.

But by then I’ll probably have forgotten that I wrote it down.

So I will leave you with some homework instead.

A couple of days ago Ralph and I were watching a video of ten things you think happened in movies and tv shows that never did. The only one I remember is that Timmy never actually fell down a well. You’d swear he did, right? Who else would Lassie have rescued? But nope. Never happened, not ever in a single episode.

There are about a billion of those things out there. Humphrey Bogart never said, “Play it again, Sam.” Hannibal Lecter never said, “Hello, Clarice.” But even if you never saw those movies I bet you remember those lines that were never spoken!

We are billions of proofs that memory is dumb.

Your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to google “things you remember that never happened.” I promise you will never trust yourself again.

At a minimum, you shouldn’t believe a word I say on this blog, because for all I know I never jumped rope a day in my life.

Photo: a bus that burst into flame one day as we were driving down the Garden State Parkway. It’s kind of how my brain feels when I try to remember things sometimes.