My memory is like a dream, a little cloudy around the edges and in spots. Sometimes things feel like they have never occurred while other times the past is as clear as this current moment. 

I worry that I will forget it all, like my Grandmother who constantly asked where Ray was, when he had only walked into the kitchen. I read as quickly as I can, take as many notes as I can, because one day, I may wonder where Ray went too. 

I watch my mom struggle to find the words, is it just a moment? Is it happening to her too? Sometimes I struggle to retrieve the word, the phrase, the idea, the name. Is it happening to me?

Do other people have clear memories or do they just piece things together in such a way that it sounds clear?

There is plenty in the past that I would like to forget, to disappear. The choice in what remains seems arbitrary, like a marble landing on a roulette board, bouncing between the numbers, settling upon a memory that will remain. Remain and haunt. While other moments float away, like dandelion seeds, maybe they will grow other memories or maybe they’ll be killed by pesticides. 

My brain feels like it’s filled with chemicals. Sprayed to remove the memories. Sometimes the memories can grow, like a rose through the concrete, or like the patch of poison ivy in the beds of my childhood home that always returned. My job was to remove the weeds. I hated the spray, so I would get down close to the weeds and pull them out one by one. I hated wearing gloves, I couldn’t feel the earth then. The poison ivy seemed to hide within all the weeds or maybe I just forgot what it looked like. 

The memory of riding the plane to California for the first time while the poison ivy rash slowly spread all over my body is as clear as right now. The tiny spot on my hand, which led to the itch on my neck, which led to the scratching of my belly. Her father got me a special lotion which made me not want to scratch so much, but the rash was everywhere. Have you ever tried not to scratch an itch? It’s like searching for the memory of happiness that is lost to the pesticide. 

Neuroscience explains how our brains constantly grow, but is the act of forgetting also growth? 

I think of my brain like file cabinets filled to their edges. Some of the drawers aren’t organized well, like I began but then got distracted by another book or idea. When I can’t remember something, I imagine a little me running around my brain trying to remember which drawer it might be in, is it this one? 

Or this one? 

Maybe I put it into more than one drawer just in case? 

I must overstuff the drawers. 

I must have piles on the floor. 

I must have stacks on top of the cabinets. 

I have to be able to find the memories. 

I have to be able to have more than enough information before I begin to forget.

2 thoughts on “forgetting

  1. Well done. In the moments I know I want to remember I try to concentrate extra hard. Doesn’t always work.

  2. I suppose memory remains very personal even if we have clues about what the brain is up to in the process. So many of the emotions you describe in the struggle to claim, sort, recall and share the memories that matter most to us resonate with me. Thank you for this window into your distinct experience.

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