I’m curious about what people remember and why.
I don’t have a fantastic memory of anything before…yesterday.
In fact, earlier this week I connected on Facebook with a high school friend. Do you remember… ? Nope, don’t remember that. How about… ? Nope, don’t remember that either.
Another high school friend, Brad, remembers many details about me from high school that I can’t remember. Last year, over dinner with Brad and his wife Martha (another high school friend), I enjoyed hearing stories for what seemed like the first time. (Really, I did that? I said that?)
My daughter Cami has an astounding memory. She memorized 34 digits of Pi for school a few months ago and she can still recite them pretty reliably. She remembers many poems we memorized a few years ago when we still did school at home.
Sometimes I remember things I’d rather forget: hurt feelings, bad days.
And sometimes I forget things I desperately want to remember.
What I can remember seems random, sometimes.
I remember the date of my first prom (May 9th.) I remember the way my first daughter, only hours old, stretched her arm around mine for our first hug.
I have a theory about memory, completely derived from my own experience, not at all scientific.
Memory needs a scaffolding.
I’ve often thought many of my memory gaps exist because I have moved so much in my life.
When you stay in one place, you revisit the places of the past regularly. You might drive past your elementary school every week or run into your former classmates at the grocery store. Seeing those familiar places and people refreshes your memory. You see places — and people — in layers: who or what they are now, what they were before, and all the versions in between.
When you spend time with old friends, you retell the old stories. I fill in the details I remember. When you add yours, the picture is more complete.
Places, people and stories brought from the past into the future become a scaffolding that supports our memories.
When you move a lot, you move on to new places and make new friends. You push aside the old stories to make room for new ones. Unless you are intentional about recalling friends, places, and stories from the past, those memories can fade quickly.
In some ways, we can also choose what to remember. To remember, we can repeat, revisit, retell, replay, re-imagine.
We can choose to write things down, record video, and take photos to refer to later. In the absence of old friends and familiar places, those notes, videos, and photos can become the scaffolding of our memories.
Tell me something! What do you remember? Do you have a good memory of the people, places, and stories of your past? What scaffolding supports your memories? What do you most want to remember?