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« Memories and the Making of Me | Main | How I Learned to Swear »

Memories and Me

Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you[1]

Memories can disappoint.

I have two concerns, indeed complaints, about my memories. The first is, to be honest, that they are not near as good as photographs or videos. They fade and lose color faster than photographs and videos. I actually wouldn’t mind if I could implant a Bluetooth device in my brain so I could watch my memories on a big TV with a great sound system.

Roberta and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this week. Her mom came to dinner and we got out the photo album of pictures of the welcome dinner on Friday night, and the wedding and reception on Saturday. We had agreed twenty-five years ago that we would not watch the video of the wedding because individually and collectively we would be creating and recreating the memory through the years. It was a good idea, even a romantic idea, however, looking at the pictures I realized that I simply don’t remember much of the three events. The pictures didn’t jar memories back into life. They are simply not there. It is almost as though I wasn’t there twenty-five years ago. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could record, not the event itself (which we do with abandon), but our memories of the event?

The second of my concerns/complaints is that my memories are few and far between. I’m not talking about simply forgetting, that mental  frustration of knowing you know or knew something but just can’t recall it. I’m talking about the complete lack of memories of an event or time. It’s more than forgetting. It’s a void.

My friend Gerry and I met when we were somewhere around ten years old – not sure exactly how old because I can’t remember! He has memories of our friendship that are completely lost to me. For example, he remembers sitting in a booth at a pizza restaurant one night and the conversation we had while in high school. Apparently we were talking about the meaning of life and it was important. I can’t remember the conversation, or the booth, or the restaurant. My cousin Michelle emailed saying she remembers when she was little I would hold her up above my head so she could touch the chandelier in our dining room. I can’t remember doing that. I can’t remember the chandelier. I can’t remember the dining room. The only thing I remember about that house is my bedroom – it was painted different shades of purple. People seems to have a fuller remembrance of my life than I do.

When I was visiting my sisters recently, my older sister Nancy gave me a little photo album with the word “Schoolmates” written on the front. As she handed it to me it did look familiar and I do believe some of my synapses sparked. Inside the rust colored album are fourteen 2.5” by 3.5” black and white photos of kids I knew in high school. Each one has my name on the top left corner and the name of the pictured person on the bottom right. On the back is a message. Three of the pictures are of male friends and the rest of female friends. The boys wrote short vapid messages. The girls filled the back of the small photo with heartfelt prose. I apparently was a great guy! My girlfriend at the time, Carol, was pretty damn sure we would last forever. I was “the most wonderful guy” in her life, “different from any guy” she had ever met. Seemingly my sincerity was a big plus. There’s a picture of a girl named Phyl. She had a crush on me in the tenth grade because I was the “coolest guy”. I certainly don’t remember being cool! I don’t remember Phyl, but given her picture it’s obvious I blew it in the tenth grade. I’m assuming I gave each of these fourteen people a school picture of myself, signed it and wrote something on the back. Did I write with sincerity in the way only a cool guy could do, or did I write banality? I don’t know. I don’t remember giving anyone a picture, let alone writing on the back of it. I don’t remember my picture.

I’m convinced that I remember the tiniest fraction of my life.[2] So much of me is lost to me. So much is fading. Who am I? I mean, if I remembered 50% or 100% of my life experiences would I know myself differently, have a different self-defined identity? Would I even recognize myself? Maybe I am cool but don’t remember!

According to PSYBLOG: Understanding Your Mind, memories do not decay and “lost” memories can “live again”. I suppose there are exercises that might help me enable my memories to live again. I must google that. And It’s a nice thought, that even if I can’t retrieve my lost memories, they still exist, live, and thus so much of me that seems gone is still there. But, for the most part, I don’t remember me.

I’m glad I talked about the meaning of life when I was young. I’m glad I was sincere and cool. So, until that Bluetooth devise is invented or I learn to activate my lost memories, I’m going to assume that what those eleven girls wrote on the back of their photos is true, that that is indeed me.

Copyright © 2015 Dale Rominger

[1] Paul Simon. Bookends, from the Album Bookends, 1968. 

Old friends, memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears

Time it was and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you

[2] I googled “How much of our life do we remember?” and only got someone’s blog that claimed we remember .001%. Unfortunately, the blogger admitted he had no scientific evidence to back up is opinion.

Reader Comments (3)

Fascinating, especially since the death of my lifetime best friend's husband a few months ago prompted me to dig deep into my old diaries/journals to check some facts for her. I have been keeping my memories this way since I was 13, but I hadn't re-read this stuff in years. Now I can compare what I "remember" to what I wrote about the time/event and it is a truly amazing journey. The way I have preserved my life is through writing it down as it happened, but even so, some of it is lost, of course, but an astounding amount is intact, and spoken back to me in "present tense." I am currently reading my 14 year old voice and see ways that it is like my 65 year old voice (different slang, though.) The notations on the back of high school pictures are the voices of the past speaking today. Yes, of course you were cool. Girls do not lie about those things.

August 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Fullmer

Your memory lapses made me smile. As I recall all through high school, you always had a girl who thought you were "cool." Want me to send you the list?

August 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDena

Nancy, the only time I kept a journal was when traveling. Your comments make me think it may be time to pull them out again and do some reading and remembering. Roberta has been keeping journals for years, since she was young. Need to ask her if she ever looks at them. Given the lack of the Bluetooth device I mentioned in the blog, journals would have been the best option.

August 21, 2015 | Registered CommenterDale Rominger

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