Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Sunday, November 2, 2008


"The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things don't come to mind when we want them."
-Friedrich Nietzsche

I frequently pause at the fridge door, hand outstretched, struggling to recall what snack it was I had been intending to fetch. Or I freeze vacantly before the cupboard, or storage closet, or keyboard, or find myself at a loss when talking to my mother, fighting to tell her something that had moments ago been terribly urgent, unable despite my best efforts to bring it to mind.
Yet when Mater starts to tell me some news of home, for which she must first recall the name of a little boy she temporarily tutored a decade ago- a child I never met and only heard of in relation to his tragic inability to spell elementary words- I close my eyes and his name, unassuming and commonplace, floats forth and allows me to supply Mater with the answer she seeks, startling the pair of us in the process.
There is no accounting for memory, or the lack of it, or what mundane details we choose to keep with us.


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

How very true that is.

Jaime said...

Memory is a funny thing. I don't think my memory is fully functional. Especially short term, even when I was paying close attention at the time, things are lost so easily for me. But yet I can remember so many parts of my childhood with such clarity. And I am grateful for that!


Beth said...

memory is a very strange thing. I had a head injury 15 years ago and since have been terrible at recalling faces and names and often stare blankly at people who know me. Over time I have learned to compensate and just smile warmly at everyone--occasionally it is misinterpreted but for the most part it gets me out of awkward moments. While I can't recall faces or names I have a very good memory for events--stories, I guess--I just can't remember who the people are that are in the stories. Interestingly, I went to law school after the head injury (no jokes, Texican) and the memory problems were not an issue as long as things were in context which is how law is taught. Law school is 3 years of reading Supreme Court cases and no fact memorization--it worked for me. This comment is much too long, sorry.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Pamela, memory is curious, indeed.

Jaime, strange how we can recall childhood so much easier than what we did yesterday! Hopefully mostly the happy memories remain :)

Beth, there's no such thing as a 'too-long' comment ;) not in my book.
I went to college in California with a girl who couldn't recall any faces, and she had to explain to her classmates that she wasn't snubbing them, just didn't know who was who. My accent, apparently, was a key for her, so that she could recognise me, and we were friends for a while after that. I try to imagine it, but I can't grasp what it's like to see a face I know and not be able to identify.
Your story is fascinating, especially how you could tell stories without quite knowing who was involved, and your observation about the necessity of context.

I laughed at your side note to Texican!

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