What’s in a Memory?

What’s your first memory? Your most recent memory? Too distracted to remember what you had for dinner last night (mac ‘n cheese here – a staple in my house). Are you so busy that you have to think twice to remember your name? I have been thinking lately about memory and why some moments stick and turn into memories and others fade away.

During a recent episode of Modern Family, the old man that the young boy Luke was friendly with died. Luke’s dad, Phil, is inspired to spend time with his daughter, Alex, so that she can have memories of him and of things they did together. They spend the day engaging in activities that he hopes will forge their bond. They end up at a restaurant, and their waitress appears ready to give birth at any moment. Phil goes through some outrageous hijinks, hoping to induce labor, and thus a memorable event. Ultimately, Alex comforts her dad saying that she will remember the day just because it was the day her dad tried so hard to make a memory for the two of them.

Last week, I watched the movie The Breakfast Club with my 10th grade class. It was in support of a book we are reading, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. The book (sort of like a modern day Catcher in the Rye) and the movie are both set in high school. It got me to thinking about my own high school days. I didn’t get all that much out of my high school years. I was shy and awkward and was a bit of a wallflower myself. Ironically, I did not particularly like high school, and now, I am a high school teacher. Anyway, this book and movie make me wish I had gotten more out of high school and made more/better memories.

I recently read a blog talking about a pending move to the suburbs. The writer was partly excited and partly nervous. I can empathize. Next month will mark 5 years since my wife and I made our move to the suburbs. What do I remember about our apartment in the city? Many things actually – sitting there together only days before our wedding and dreaming all good things about our life together, coming home after our wedding, going to the hospital with my wife the night before our son was born and many more – some good and some not so good.

Last week, I saw my cousin who lives in Israel. I had not seen him in years; my first memories are when he was just a toddler. An innocuous memory I have of him popped into my head. I shared it with him, and he smiled politely, not knowing what to say and obviously not remembering the moment I was referring to.

My 8-year-old son (BR) is learning how to ride a bike. It’s proving particularly difficult – lack of balance? lack of patience? I remember when one of my older brothers taught me how to ride a bike. It was a sunny day. I remember feeling proud of myself and grateful to him. So, I am excited to see my son begin riding on his own and hope it will be meaningful to him. I watched BR next to my younger son (SJ). They were together and smiling. I stared happily at my children and tried to burn the vision onto my human CD drive/brain. Maybe it worked, and it will be part of my memory. I don’t know.

I still don’t know what makes a memory. I’m pretty sure it’s a lot of things that can’t be quantified. For now, I’ll listen to that Bon Jovi song, Make A Memory, and try to run through that CD of a brain of mine another time.

15 thoughts on “What’s in a Memory?

  1. Your’s and Sarah’s friendship is a memory I will always have (but its really not a memory, it’s realtime)

  2. I have often wondered the same thing. Much of my childhood seems to have been lost. Unfortunately, I do remember the painful moments quite readily. During a special moment with my children, I also try to “etch” it into my brain.
    I recently finished the rough draft of my first book which is about my son Erik who is Down’s. As I wrote about the things I did remember, other “forgotten” memories took shape. It was an interesting process. I regret not keeping a journal once my children were born. I wish I had known how important it would be to me one day to remember every little thing they did.

  3. Good post. Some things that were supposed to be memorable were not for me (e.g. graduations), and some that were not supposed to be, were memorable (conversations, laughs, Not sure exactly what makes something memorable, but one essential quality, I think, is that it is shared.

    • Sharing definitely seems like a quality that is meaningful, yet, I am not sure that each person who shares the moment necessarily remembers it. Impact is not always the same

  4. I’ve always written things down that I want to remember. Of course, I look back at those old high school journals now in horror and shake my head at how stupid I was. But it was all real to me then. Maybe it will give me insight into the minds of my insane teenagers when the time comes! But I find the best memories come from those things you never planned. You can plan for a wonderful birthday outing and it’s just OK. But you can go out for just a nothing day and it can turn into one of the favorite days of your life. The unexpected things that happen, the chaos, the disasters, the humor. Those all make memories.

  5. Thanks for the lovely post. I was a total wallflower until I was in college. I often wonder what memories my children will come away with-learning to ride a bike? Endless days of therapy for the twins? I hope there are some good ones in there. It was a great read. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This is so interesting to think about- I know I’ll share a memory with one of my brothers, and they remember it completely differently. The Wallflower book sounds interesting- I teach middle school, and I am on the lookout for books we can use for literature circles- I’ll have to check it out.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog, by the way.

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