I don’t have the world’s best memory. I am not one of those writers who can remember everything that happened to me through my childhood. I forget great chunks of happenings and I’m dreadful with people’s names.
I was part of a science panel the other night on the radio and the announcer asked me why I chose chemistry. I said that I remembered my grade 12 chemistry, how much I enjoyed it, and that was the major factor in my decision – the decision that has led to my career in chemistry. So the announcer (naturally) asked what it was that I enjoyed. I couldn’t really remember. Then she asked what was the teacher’s name – the teacher that has had a major influence on my life. I couldn’t remember. I still can’t. Dreadful.
My daughter can remember details about the house her grandparents lived in when she was two years old. Actually, I remember that when she turned two I suddenly got really stressed. I was pretty sure she’d be able to remember things from then on, and I knew I wasn’t doing great at this parenting gig, and that now she’d be able to remember what I was doing. It added a whole layer of pressure! (We coped alright though, I now realise that everyone struggles with the parenting gig, I think she’s grown up to be a well-balanced and healthy young woman, and brilliant too, of course).
When the kids were younger I blamed my shonky memory on the number of things I had to keep in the front of my brain: who had eaten what and how long ago, when the sunscreen was last applied, where the socks were dumped, and where the favourite toy was last seen. There wasn’t a whole lot of room in the head for anything else.
Now I don’t have those sorts of excuses. I still have the same memory issues though.
Instead of trusting my creaky memory, I hoard. I have journals that reach back to 2010 sitting on my bookshelf in my study downstairs, and I’m hopeful that somewhere I have the journal I wrote back when we were married in 94 and the journal I remember writing in grade 10. They are important to me, though I don’t go back and look at them often, they store my memories, my feelings, my struggles and joys of the years. And I’m hoping they will be a great resource for my writing too.
My email is another place where I hoard. When the IT guy set up my new computer it took ages, simply ages, to load up properly.
‘How much saved email do you have?’ he asked.
‘That would be it.’
Every so often, I go to the ‘sent’ folder and I copy email after email to a word document I have set up for this purpose. I’m up to 2005. Emails I set to my parents while they were in the USA. Emails to my sister when her life turned upside down. Emails to my brother, thanking him for the flowers he sent. Work emails, school emails. All of them documenting my life.
Last night I read something about ‘my rat dying on the operating table’. I had forgotten about the big biochemistry project I did that required operating on rats and changing the nitrate levels in the blood to see how that changed the blood perfusion. It’s coming back to me now but without the email record I may have never remembered.
On the subject of rats – or rather mice – there was an email about the mouse plague we had in our old house. About a mouse that dropped onto our bed in the middle of the night, ran across DH’s face and ended up in my slipper. You’d think an experience like that would stick in the brain but until I read it in the email, I had completely forgotten.
I think there are just too many memories to keep them all in the front of my brain at one time. I have forty three years of experiences. Living with them constantly would be much to great a burden to bear. I’m already absent minded enough without all those memories swirling around me. But it’s so much fun to go back through what has been written down and relive the memories just for a while.
Sometimes I would like to keep only the good memories and delete the bad ones, but that wouldn’t be my life. My life is the good memories, the bad, and the things that I can’t even remember but that have shaped me on the way through.
I read somewhere a long time ago that the most boring real person is much more interesting than the most interesting fictional character.
But don’t ask me where I read it. I can’t remember!