Musings on Memory

24 03 2009

In my last post I mentioned my obsession with memory and history. While I have, it seems, and ever-growing list of  obsessions, I realize I neglected to explain this particular one. It’s a relatively recent one—more recent, at least, than my obsession with books or my obsession with travel. And yet it’s really not all that recent.

Though my obsession with memory as an entity larger than myself is a more recent development, I’ve realized recently that memory has always been important to me personally. Since I was a tiny child, I’ve always been overcome with this urge to remember something, if not, that is, everything. Whether I was urged on by the fact that my brothers took such pride in the fact that their 5-year-old sister could recite the theory of relativity or simply that I wanted to forget nothing, I felt an irrepressible need to record every single thing I experienced or learned.

And record I did. In second grade it was the song we sang at First Communion (which, incidentally, to this day still plays in my head every time the priest gives Communion to the Eucharistic ministers). Later it was the minutest details of every interaction, good or bad, in journals and scrapbooks (which still reside on a closet shelf in my room in California, bursting with the most simplistic and mundane of mementos). Cards, stickers, dolls, newspaper clippings and sundry other trinkets have been stored away for heaven knows what purpose, and though I’ve taken the liberty of purging over the years, much, admittedly, still remains.

My obsession with remembering everything has waned somewhat with age, though I still take copious notes on random events and even more copious mental notes on pretty much anything and everything. And to add to all that, I can still recite all those formulas drilled into me by my brothers, along with assorted poems, the introductory paragraphs to a chapter of Annie Dillard‘s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and one rather long children’s book called Miss Twiggley’s Tree.

Until recently, I’d never really given my past with memory much thought. I chalked it up to having a strong one, along with some sentimental (and sometimes ridiculous) inclination to recall life details. In graduate school, however, this obsession came to the forefront, and I found that most of my projects and papers somehow revolved around the concept. If I could work it in, it was there. And of late it’s been cropping up again and again, and so, I’m devoting all posts this week to musings on the subject.

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One response

24 03 2009
mom

And that memory of yours gave your old mother plenty of bragging rights, as I was always telling people my “late-in-life” child was brilliant and had a photographic memory — a nice way to lead into bragging about your perfect report cards. We moms (especially this one) love to talk about our kids!

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