Which good memories are better — the recent and vivid ones, or those that time has covered in a sweet haze?
It’s disturbing how many things I have forgotten — about my life (over many years) and my children’s lives. They have vivid memories of events that I have totally forgotten, and vice versa. I feel guilty when I don’t remember things that were obviously significant for them, but I think that’s the reason we capture some memories and not others. For some reason an event or occasion clicked in each of our brains as being some special or particularly enjoyable or horrible, and for that reason it’s stored more securely, and able to be recalled.
Hazy memories are frustrating to me, because I feel there’s more there that I just can’t “pull up”. Is that a brain glitch, or just a sign that it’s just not all there to be retrieved? No, I prefer those moments when a sound, a smell, a word, or a photo can shoot off a signal in my brain so I seem to relive the event in a split second. It’s remarkable how random some of these memories are — but some are so clear and vivid, it’s as if I’m there for a moment. I love it. They can even recreate the feeling I had then, making it seem as if time is insubstantial.
I find the connection between cues and memory fascinating. I remember when my kids were little and I’d be holding them, feeding and cuddling them, I’d pray that I could retain the memory, that picture, forever. It doesn’t work like that though. I can distinctly remember the first night we brought our first baby home from the hospital. I didn’t sleep all night. Her little cot was next to my side of the bed, and at least every half-an-hour, I would check to see if she was still breathing. It’s like I’m looking at myself in a video clip.
I can also recall the time about 18 months later when we had just moved to another house: my husband and I were in the bedroom, and we heard a clunk-clunk-clunk and knew immediately that she had fallen down the stairs to the basement. We’d just had new carpet installed, and the door wasn’t closing properly without shoving it closed. That was just enough for her to squeeze through and head down the (thankfully) carpeted stairs. I can still visualize myself standing in the bedroom and hearing that sound, then running to the basement door. Then, once I realized she was okay, the picture fades out. (We still had her checked out, but toddlers are amazingly resilient.)
There are so many moments like that — just flashes, clips — quick but real. Why do I remember those things and not others? Why don’t I remember it all! I’d love to…