My childhood memory is hazy regarding a poem that I was requested to recite from memory. I can visualize the car ride to the wedding. The day was overcast and hazy. There was a small municipal park in the tiny Nebraska village. The bandstand, outbuildings, and picnic tables apparently had been recently painted with clean, white paint. The modest, small Lutheran Church where the wedding took place was stuffy and uncomfortable. I remember walking to the podium during the wedding reception to recite the poem. However, I do not remember a single word of the poem, the name of the poem, nor its author. In fact, I might have forgotten the poem immediately after I’d recited it. I do remember the applause and praise from the audience, though.
Other details about that day are unclear, too. My age may have been ten or eleven. What clothing did I wear? I’m not even sure about who was getting married. The only vivid concern I had was remembering every word of the lengthy poem and how long to pause between verses. That big worry faded away after the ordeal was over.
It’s fascinating to consider what our brains store in long term and short term memory. Some memories remain fresh while others are repressed. The root of our human foibles seem to be present in our subconscious. Why else do people cheat, lie, and forget? Does the brain have some sort of protocol regarding remembering and forgetting? I’m not a neurologist, so I can’t say anything definitive about this topic. One of the puzzling things about long term memory is wondering why memories of the obscure childhood event popped into my mind, unprompted, last night at bedtime. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason for it.
I’m considering garden variety forgetfulness today but not the sad occurrances of dementia, Alzheimers, and similar breakdowns of thinking and mental activity. The devasting biological effects due to aging and other factors are being clinically investigated by researchers who have access to data and disciplines typically unavailable to laypersons. I’m aware of the differences, because one of my grandmothers suffered from dementia. Her condition was profoundly different from conventional forgetfulness.
Memories of some events are enhanced while memories of other events are often embellished in the mind. Experts claim that memories themselves are altered each time we access them. This process happens undeliberately. We unconsciously bury the pristine truth in the field of forgetfulness. In the meantime, we weave stories out of the snippets of memories we retain. This cognitive process fascinates scienctists and philosophers.
I retain the habit of keeping a paper and ink dayplanner because I do not entrust electronic devices to remind me of important events. The dayplanner is supplemented with a wall calendar with day spaces large enough to write prompts. There is even a separate, dedicated dayplanner to keep track of future topics for this blog. There is a stack of expired, old dayplanners on a shelf in the den. These tools have been useful against my own forgetfulness.
All things considered, there are negatives and positives regarding forgetfulness. The negatives affect our effectiveness while the positives allow us to put past difficulties into proper perspective. Meantime, I wish I could remember the name of the poem, its author, and why it was selected to be recited that long ago day.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th century journalist, novelist, and social activist, Jack London. “There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.”