Sunday, November 11, 2012


My dad once said that if you named a date, he could remember something horrible or disappointing that happened on that day.  We were riding in a car at night when it happened.  We may have been coming back from visiting my cousin in Dixon.  I had told him about an article I had read and he was commenting on it.

In the article, the author had explained an experiment that she had done to explore memory.  For more than a year, at the end of her day, she had written what had happened on a 3x5 card marked on the other side with the date.  At a certain point in the experiment, she started to pull out the 3x5 cards and trying to remember what had happened that day, then comparing her memory with the notes.

Now, personally, I was amazed at the idea that someone could pull up memories by date.  Once something is over and I don't have to keep track of the date, it sort of evaporates.  I might be able to triangulate by comparing it to other events, but I'm never going to be able to say for sure what I was doing on the evening of November 17th.  

She seemed to be able to do it fairly well, though, and what struck her most wasn't the fact that she remembered events and dates.  What struck her was an emotional thing.  She found that she was feeling depressed when she did the remembering and comparing exercise.  She thought about it for awhile and decided that it was because she wasn't bothering to remember the small irritations of life.

If the car agency messed up her repair and tried to argue that it was just fine and they weren't going to fix it, she wouldn't remember that bit months later.  Looking back, things were pretty much OK.  Going back through the notes, there was an intermittent series of bad things happening.

This is where Dad had said that his memory didn't work that way.  His memory did the opposite.  He remembered all the slights and arguments and points here people remembered things wrong but wouldn't defer to the way he remembered it.  

I don't know if memories of nice things faded or not.  Certainly he did what he could to leave himself a trail of bread crumbs to them.  He took home movies at every opportunity.  In each movie, someone was holding a slate or paper sign with the date and either the location or the event.  

You'll be hearing more about those home movies.  I've inherited them and recently sent them out to be transferred to DVD.  I've sent them twice because they messed up the order.  . . . twice.  I may be demanding my money back and going somewhere else to have the transfer done.  I'm sure I'll remember it later because it was upsetting and because being able to get it fixed will be a small personal triumph.  But once I've got them transferred, I don't expect that the difficulties in dealing with that company will be the main thing that I remember.  I guarantee I won't be grinding my teeth over it in twenty years.

I kind of pity Dad for having that kind of memory.  The moment he said it, though, I believed it totally.  "If you name a date, I can tell you something rotten that happened then."

No comments:

Post a Comment