On Memories and Remembering Them
Some people have the gift of eidetic memory. Some people have the gift of remembering instinctively how to spell “eidetic.” I proudly have the latter.
A Burden I Do Not Carry, Y’All
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the phonetics of which make me think of ducks for some reason, “eidetic memory” refers to the ability to pretty much remember everything that happens to you ever. Which is very much one of those blessing/curse packages: on the one hand, you can solve murder mysteries or make a perfect eyewitness or be awesome at Quizzo, which is pretty sweet, but on the other hand, you may forever hear that taunting grade-school chant of “Fatty McFatFat Fattypants” or fall prey to a telekinetic serial killer out to steal your ability via some ambiguous process of brain-removal, which is bad.
Being a convenient blessing/curse package, incidentally, eidetic memory turns out to be highly useful for Instantly Complex Characterization (i.e., “it is a gift, but also a burden, y’all, so obviously I am not perfect, on the contrary, I am quirky and realistic”), which means, hey presto, drama.
Unfortunately/fortunately, I am not so blessed/cursed. I have a normal memory!
Okay okay okay so “normal” is a strong word. My memory is “not-cool-weird-the-way-eidetic-is-cool-weird.”
Perhaps I should explain.
Reality TV, Or Perhaps More Aptly, TV Reality
I don’t know if I am unusual in this sense, or if others share this tendency, although it seems bizarre to me: I tend to remember my memories - ah, memories, those rogue vignettes stored away in one’s personal history archive that get triggered into Technicolor from time to time by the occasional stimuli of one’s wandering senses - I tend to remember my memories as fuzzy silent television scenes.
They’re full color scenes, mostly, but the majority are marked by silence. I end up having to provide my own soundtrack, which sometimes — usually — means narration. That narration is either aloud, whilst I describe said memory to other people with my own mouth, or subvocalized, as I add commentary to the scene in my head.
Not to mention, the actors in the scene are kind of like puppets that do what I “remember” them to do. They are very wooden and poorly trained.
For example, if I were to try to recall that time we took Clay’s baby doll and made a really cool song about it that went something like Clay has a baby doll, Clay has a baby doll? Even though it wasn’t in fact a baby doll but an innocent unisex plaything? Whose connotation was nevertheless warped by the cruel minds of youngsters proving the doctrine of Original Sin?
I can see it, a bit fuzzy and Instagram-filter-y on the edges, but there is no soundtrack and I couldn’t tell you how the song went. And the children in this horrific tableau should not get compensation for their poor reenactment. I remember it precisely because I am putting it into words, which is tied to the vague images and a confidence that this event of juvenile malice did, indeed, happen.
I have not read many (alright, any) psychological documents on this subject, but I am curious to know if this stilted, voiceover-requiring replay is the widespread experience of Remembering. I’m sure you all remember things the same way! At least I will convince myself so, because, you know, there is such tangible comfort in doing the same thing as everyone else.
The Only Way In Which I Am Anything Sort Of Like Brad Pitt In Ocean’s Eleven
There is another peculiar thing about my memory. Whenever the question “What’s your earliest childhood memory?” comes up, I can only vividly remember ever things related to food.
I guess I have a subconscious eating fixation, because I do not eat that much in real life! Hahaha, no, that is false. I guess I have a conscious eating fixation.
Anyway, this is not to say that I do not remember anything else from my early youth. This is rather to say that the first and most clear memories are always eating-related.
I Genuinely Remember These Food-Related Things, You Guys
Nathan and I made “butter cookies” when I was legitimately two years old. I think this wins for earliest memory ever for me. “Butter cookies” is in quotes because really they were “Shedd’s Spread Country Crock Churn Style, Country Fresh Taste Guaranteed! cookies” (I remember that title in its entirety because, years later, Nathan and I put that entire thing to the tune of ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ and now I can never unremember it. See? Food memory), which is in quotes because they were only cookies insofar as round blobs of something on a baking pan constitute cookies. Ah, the age of innocence.
I ate a Lego piece. The kind with four studs, I think. Pretty sure that was the last time I was ever able to intentionally swallow something larger than a very small pill without an extensive mental pep rally and a tall glass of water.
I ate a gumball. As in, like, ate, as in, swallowed and allowed to journey down my esophagus, as in, what you’re not supposed to do with gumballs. My mother was subsequently informed by some well-meaning friends that I ought to drink a tantalizing blend of table salt and water in order to loosen the evil esophageal glue. I sat in a bathtub and drank miserably from a green plastic cup with a frog on it.
I drank barium. Or something with barium in it, to get an X-Ray done. They either flavored it real good or I am just a strange kid, because I thought it was basically a banana milkshake so I of course asked them for more. At which point my mother and the lady nurse had a good healthy adult chuckle, and rightly so, at my hilarious naïveté.
Ask me about my childhood, and these are the stories that spring right to the forefront. Silent movies with narration, but the frames are bright and very detailed and varyingly delicious. I suppose I was a well-fed young thing, and for that I am grateful.
Once Again Closing With The Rhetorical Questions
So why all this talk of memory and food? Do I have some sort of unrealized yearning to remember differently? To remember different things? What spurred me to reflect on my memory engine and disclose these quasi-humiliating personal tales? Am I perhaps simply prone to pondering things that are on the deeper end of the pool of things people are prone to ponder? Should I have used “pond” instead of “pool” in that last question for humor? Why did I choose this topic, of all topics? How about all of the above?
I actually can’t remember.