31 Jan

This one concludes with deep rhetorical questions

I think my memory of forced naps must be my earliest memory. I can also remember standing up on December 5th, 1974 for the first time ever with the aid of a toddler’s workbench (complete with plastic hammer and thick plastic nails) as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired on TV for the first time. But I’m pretty sure that’s not an actual memory. It’s a story that impacted me through its repetition and one that was easy to picture since there’s a photo of the scene in an album somewhere.

Most of my students have discovered a similar phenomenon of doubting the veracity of their memories. Did I really see that squirrel in the cab of Uncle Alex’s pick-up truck? Was I actually there when my sister fell in the pool that one Thanksgiving? Did I witness Amy rip the trampoline? Or have these memories been imprinted in my mind simply because the story came to be expertly told at family gatherings?

One girl in class spoke of a memory that she’s sure is not genuine: it’s a story of how she “beat up” a two year-old boy when she was one. She can picture it all — the color of the walls, what she was wearing, the layout of furniture in the room — but she knows her memory is simply a matter of plentiful retelling. The thing is, somebody has a video of the incident. Multiple copies, in fact. So there exists a pretty accurate representation of the entire famous episode. She hasn’t seen it, though. I told her she should write down her memory of it in as much detail as possible and then watch the video.

Imagine, though, if we could watch the videos of our memories as they actually occurred. Where would it leave us? Would it destroy the illusions that have helped define us? Would we refuse the truth? Isn’t the illusion preferable?

30 Jan


This past week, I had my students mimic a Paul Auster excerpt from The Invention of Solitude in which he narrates a character’s memories. I started my own attempt at the exercise and I was surprised how much I remembered in just 25 minutes or so.

I remember mandatory nap time. Standing up in my crib in the upstairs bedroom I shared with my older sister. I remember the lights being turned off and the shades being drawn. I remember being angry because the shades couldn’t hide the fact that it was the middle of the day and it wasn’t right to be awake. I remember kicking soccer balls against the garage door in the back alley and trying to aim for the brown, circular imprints left by previouis balls. I remember lobbing a rock on top of a car that had just stopped at the intersection next to our house. I remember doing it purely out of curiosity, not malice. And I remember the driver of the car shouting “hey!” I remember waving goodbye to my older sisters on rainy days as they left for school in yellow raincoats. I remember feeling sorry for myself. I remember loving Curious George. I remember the bright, yellow hat that looked like a large banana when the man in the yellow hat was walking through bushes. I remember another book in which the main character watches two kids in yellow raincoats from a window. I remember feeling sorry for the main character. I think that book might be Mumpsy Goes to Kindergarten, but I don’t remember. I remember not liking the color yellow. I remember sitting alone on a deep windowsill in my preschool classroom away from the other children, who were seated in a circle on the other side of the room. I remember getting a motorized wind-up car as a gift in the hospital when I was waiting to have tubes put in my ears. I remember my bed in the hospital being only one among a whole group of beds in a big, open room, and I remember feeling no privacy at all. I remember feeling slightly jealous of my younger brother who was cute and who had epilepsy. I remember not admitting, even to myself, that he was cute. I remember how he used to run leaning forward a little and with his arms behind him. I remember him running into furniture and walls constantly. I remember catching snakes in the waist-high field behind our new house. I remember calling the waist-high grass wheat. I remember the feel of running the plucked plants through my thumb and forefinger to get a handful of seeds afterward. I remember finding a rabbit’s nest and petting the scared little babies. I remember being told that their mother would reject them now that they had a human scent.

14 Jan

Florida, my nemesis

So, Eileen’s in Florida this week, volunteer coaching for the Lightweight Novices, which she refers to as Novi. Tember and I miss her, but it’s much easier to keep the kitchen clean. 🙂

I’ve been biking in our basement, watching bad science fiction movies in Spanish. Since the majority of a triathlon is cycling, I guess I better figure out how to do it. Bike, that is.

It’s the last week of classes at school; I’ve been grading papers like a friggin machine.

This morning, I talked to my mother-in-law, who is down in Florida, staying in some campground in their RV. She said something about how they’re in a town just south of the Georgia border, which is having some sort of Stephen Foster celebration. I might be getting this slightly wrong. In any case, the moral of the story is that retirement is wonderful.

I asked if there was a body of water nearby, and she said, “yeah, the Swanee River.” Apparently, there’s a huge carillon tower that plays Stephen Foster songs all day. “Just songs like Home Sweet Home and Way Down Upon the Swanee River. We’re kind of old folks, you know.”

I thought that was pretty funny.