There’s a song by Damien Rice called ‘I remember’ which reminded me of an article by a psychologist who sustained memory is one of our greatest – and most underrated – gifts. I totally agree with her. I think memory is fascinating. Who or what decides what you remember and what you don’t remember? Why do we hold on to certain events or words or images or sounds? Is it all part of a plan? Is it that maybe all those little things we have in storage will gain importance in time?
I have a pretty darn good memory myself. Whenever my brothers and sisters get together for dinner at my mother’s or at my father’s house we start reminiscing about our old house, our old neighborhood, the funny stories that we all starred and every moment that seemed to have some significance to us. I’m the sixth of seven children and the oldest ones are amazed by how accurately I recall details and situations.
I can remember the house where I was born, the place I called home until I was 4. I remember the kitchen tiles (which happen to be exactly the same color and size as the ones in the house I live now), I remember the study, I remember taking ‘Flintstones’ shaped vitamins that were on the bookshelf, I remember rolling down the stairs. I even remember looking up from my white bed/corral at the white wooden bars and thinking why couldn’t I be downstairs. I remember asking my brothers and sisters to stand in the hall outside my room so I could count them.
I remember the day we moved to our new house. I remember getting out of the car with my Fisher Price barn in my hands and walking through the threshold. I remember watching the Berlin wall falling on the 9:00 news in my parents’ bedroom. And I’ll never forget catching a small glimpse of that devilish clown peeking through the gutter in ‘It’. That scene kept me awake for weeks. I don’t know if you should call that a ‘good’ memory. It’s more of a large garage. A wider range memory, I don’t know, call it whatever you want.
I also remember much darker incidents but I don’t recall the aftermath of those incidents. Why is it that I kept the tragedy but not the solution in my mind? Well, maybe it wasn’t a solution by name but it was the next best thing, the moment that indicated that it was over. Is it because we become attached with the tough stuff? And I don’t mean just the bad moments, but also the good ones. Those strong, undeniably meaningful events that seem to pierce our minds and carve themselves in our psyche for good. But there are also the apparently trivial things, like the little girl who turned around and smiled at me in the bus six years ago, or the store downtown where we used to get our school uniforms when I was in first grade. Why do we – or I – block the outcomes, the aftermaths?
There’s all this tragedy and drama and glorious moments that stay with us forever but those things you really want to keep… you just can’t grasp them. I search my mind looking for them but they don’t appear until someone else reminds me of them. Memories by stimuli. Maybe that’s why my family and I reminisce so much. We stimulate whatever recollections we hold of our innocent, more careless time: childhood.
This brings me to another subject: age. The most painful and seemingly unforgiving age we ever live: adolescence.
In Spanish adolescence is ‘adolescencia’; it comes from the word ‘dolor’ which means pain. But I’ve always thought that pain comes from adolescence. Real pain, the one you are fully aware of. Adolescence is the space between absolute innocence and full awareness of our lives. We’re not young but we’re not old either. We’re in a place where we feel misunderstood and lonely, because the ones who are going through the same disappointments as we are bring no solace. We feel understood and gotten, maybe even related, but the mind of the youngster is a complex cave where different voices tell us to trust no one. And loneliness just adds more to the bag. Young people are lonelier than the elder. They always will be. But that's meat for another grill.
Even though I try to separate them, memory and age go hand in hand, but I really wanted to discuss the memory issue.
Memory is so important to me. It gives me a sense of who I am. Memory is identity, or part of it, or a fundamental part of it.
And I hope I never lose it.