I said to my daughter the other night, “I have this problem with my memory. Like, I can’t remember what the three-minute story was that I told at the Methodist Church talent show last week.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No. I really can’t remember.”
“Mom, it was about your memory. How could you not remember that?”
The story went something like this:
I started having senior moments when I was seven. Like, I have this distinct memory of asking my mother why she named me Catherine, and she said, “I don’t know. I always hated that name.” But when I told her she said this, she said “I absolutely never said that to you.” But this was my memory, how could she not remember? Or did she just not want to admit it?
I also told my mother about remembering getting my tonsils out with my brother. “I remember being in this hospital bed in this ward, and we both got chicken noodle soup, and mine had this one noodle that I kept spinning around and around with my spoon.”
She looked at me like I was crazy. “Cathy Ann, you didn’t get your tonsils out with Stevie, and they wouldn’t have given you anything hot to eat after you got your tonsils out.”
But I can picture this in my mind. Why?
I have this one particularly strong memory of my sister not being able to find her Easter basket on Easter morning. My mother—or the easter bunny, I don’t remember which–would hide our Easter baskets all over the house while we were asleep, and as soon as we woke up we ran around looking for our baskets. We could tell which one was ours by the color of the fake chick attached to the top of the handle. Mine was always blue. I think. If you found somebody’s basket you weren’t supposed to tell them, and at the end of this particular Easter all six of my brothers and sisters had found their basket—except for my sister Barbara. Stevie found his in the stove, I found mine in the bathtub, Patty found hers behind the couch. And there we all were with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and chocolate eggs and real eggs we had dyed the night before—and Barbara had nothing. I remember her putting on a brave face and saying it’s OK, I’ll find it sometime.
The problem with this memory is that I can’t remember how it ends. Did we find the basket? Did my mother make up another basket while we weren’t looking and hide it somewhere?
So I call my sister last week and say, “OK, this is a really weird question, but I want to tell a story at the Methodist church talent show about the time you couldn’t find your Easter basket, but I don’t remember what happened. Did we find it?”
“The time I lost my Easter basket?”
“Yes, the one we looked all over for!”
“I don’t remember this at all.”
“Really. Then why do I remember it so well?”
“Because you made it up.”
“Well, I’m glad you weren’t traumatized by not finding your Easter basket, because apparently I was.”
What am I supposed to do with this story? I could make up an ending: well, there it was in the refrigerator, hiding behind the milk! Or behind the TV, it was behind the TV! Somebody broke into the house in the middle of the night and stole it!
Except that apparently the only thing lost, stolen or misplaced was my memory. So what am I supposed to do with these memories that aren’t really memories?
I think this is why God created fiction: so we could take our memories our real memories and our unreal memories and even the ones that haven’t happened yet, and turn them into something memorable.
And if you remember in 10 years or 20 years that I told you about this, I will probably say to you, ‘You know, I just don’t remember.”
The end. …
except that I had to search the computer for the video of this little performance, because I couldn’t remember the first line or the last line.
I do remember how good it felt, though, to even write something even this short, this relatively insignificant. I remember that it always feels good.