Glancing at today’s date, I remembered it was an ex-boyfriend’s birthday. I haven’t spoken to him in twenty years, haven’t thought of him in recent memory. But I wasn’t surprised. Birthdays come to me, randomly, like my best friend in First Grade (October 17) or my dad’s friend Jack (September 15). I remember Shakespeare’s birthday (April 23) and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s (February 7). I remember the birthdays of all the guys in (the original) Duran Duran. I look at a calendar a few times every month and recall the birthday of an acquaintance or author or celebrity. My brain retains this type of information — I don’t know why.
A couple of days ago my best friend texted, asking me if I had ever seen the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley and, if not, “you would really like it!” Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, this seemingly benign query almost made me cry. Because Ripley is one of my favorite movies (and books) and my friend and I have watched it and discussed again and again over the years. Instead of getting his “joke,” I immediately assumed that I was losing my mind/memory. I spent at least an hour trying to figure out if I was being messed with, or if my recollections were completely made up. I eventually replied “Did you mean to send this to ME?” and got an LOL which didn’t make me L at all. Don’t mess with my memory, people!
I never remember what happens in books. I read a lot, and for the past couple of years, I’ve been writing down the names of the books I’ve finished. (Almost forty last year — yay me!) However, I can’t remember anything but the broadest information about most: “Yeah, that’s the book about Peter the Great.” Dear Reader, the title of said book is Peter the Great. It’s over 1,000 pages long. It weighs almost three pounds. I swear I read it. And there was a two week window when we could have discussed it. Now? Well, it’s hard for me to tell you much. I can confidently assure you that Peter was a complicated man. No, I don’t know his birthday. Oh, he liked boats and his mom was really domineering. He got old. Before he was old, he was young. He had affairs. He traveled here and there, far away places. I did read this book, I really, really did. There may come a day when I am confronted with a trivia question about Peter, and I may still get it right; I am good with random “factoids” and can pull them from the recesses of my brain at a moment’s notice. At least I think I still can.
I’m not much better with movies. I’ll remember a funny line, strong performance, or great scene. I tend to forget the bigger picture: what the movie was about, how it ended.
And I never forget my two biggest fears about memory — that some things will never be forgotten, and others eventually will.