Last week, Kristin and I were discussing the way in which memories dissipate as we age. My brother, Jeff, had mentioned a Sunday afternoon from our youth during which we played croquet, toyed with boxing gloves, and drank homemade root beer. This was the Sunday afternoon that we met Kristin's family.
"I feel so old," Kristin said. "I can't remember that day at all."
I suffer from the same disease.
Obviously, there are certain childhood events I remember with clarity; I write about them here. Often. And others I remember with enough detail that I can fill in the gaps with a bit of writers license.
But the stuff I remember seems so random: I remember the pinball machine in the basement of Todd Applegate's house at his tenth birthday party, but I hardly remember Todd Applegate. (Did he have red hair?) I remember my first kiss, but not the name of the girl who kissed me. I remember reading books while sitting in the big easy chair at Grandma's house, but I don't remember any of the books. (I do remember all of the Chick tracts, though.)
I particularly identify with crisis in the third chapter:
One night about the time that Rebeca was cured of the vice of eating earth and was brought to sleep in the other children's room, the Indian woman, who slept with them awoke by chance and heard a strange, intermittent sound in the corner. She got up in alarm, thinking that an animal had come into the room, and then she saw Rebeca in the rocker, sucking her finger and with her eyes lighted up in the darkness like those of a cat. Terrified, exhausted by her fate, Visitación recognized in those eyes the symptoms of the sickness whose threat had obliged her and her brother to exile themselves forever from an age-old kingdom where they had been prince and princess. It was the insomnia plague.
Cataure, the Indian, was gone from the house by morning. His sister stayed because her fatalistic heart told her that the lethal sickness would follow her, no matter what, to the farthest corner of the earth. No one understood Visitación's alarm. "If we donít ever sleep again, so much the better," José Arcadio Buendía said in good humor. "That way we can get more out of life." But the Indian woman explained that the most fearsome part of the sickness of insomnia was not the impossibility of sleeping, for the body did not feel any fatigue at all, but its inexorable evolution toward a more critical manifestation: a loss of memory. She meant that when the sick person became used to his state of vigil, the recollection of his childhood began to be erased from his memory, then the name and notion of things, and finally the identity of people and even the awareness of his own being, until he sank into a kind of idiocy that had no past. José Arcadio Buendía, dying with laughter, thought that it was just a question of one of the many illnesses invented by the Indians' superstitions. But Úrsula, just to be safe, took the precaution of isolating Rebeca from the other children.
Two problems I face: (incipient) insomnia and (chronic) memory loss!
It's almost as if my memory has a horizon, or perhaps a finite capacity. As I grow older, more and more memories of my childhood fade and then vanish. Or perhaps my memory jar is full, and as I try to cram more in there, others are squeezed out. I suspect the former. And I suspect it's common for everyone.
Fortunately for Kristin, we determined she's not actually losing her memory, at least not in this case. The reason she can't remember that Sunday afternoon of croquet, boxing gloves, and homemade root beer is because she wasn't there. (Her sister, Karen, was there, though she spent all of her time curled on the couch, reading the paper. For months after, we thought Karen was "stuck up".)
On this day at foldedspace.org
2005 — Why I Love My Digital SLR I bought a Nikon d70 in March. It hasn't made me a better photographer, but it has made it easier for me to capture shots like this.
2003 — Long Weekend A wonderful, relaxing holiday weekend has left me with little to write.
2001 — The Death of VHS We can't find the remote to the VCR. If we upgrade, we're going to be forced to get DVD, or we're not going to be able to watch movies in the future. VHS is dying.