Forget Me Not
One sunny afternoon two or three summers back, I headed down to Battery Park City on a whim, to take the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty. I had spent more than 15 years as a Manhattanite staring out at her, but had never gone out to see Lady Liberty up close.
Except, it turns out, I had. As my mother informed me after I told her about the trip, she and my father had taken my brother and me when I was nine or ten. Sadly, that’s pretty much par for the course, as I’ve similarly forgotten a wide array of childhood adventures and experiences; enough so that my mother frequently suggests she should have just locked my brother and me in a closet for our first ten or fifteen years of life, and then told us that she had taken us to the places that they actually did, as it would have saved a lot of time and money but yielded the same result.
So when I mused a few years ago that I’d always wanted to eat at The French Laundry, and my mother informed me that I’d already been as a young teenager, I wasn’t surprised. But I did feel torn between mourning that non-memory as a colossal waste, or celebrating it (even in conscious absentia) as perhaps one of the formative experiences that molded me into the snotty foodie/serious cook I am today.
More generally, I’ve been trying to take comfort in the idea that those forgotten memories are still somehow locked inside me. Because, otherwise, all the time I’ve spent reading novels and non-fiction books, watching great films, taking classes, etc., has gone completely down the tubes, given that pretty much none of that content is still available for voluntary mental recall.
Recently, for example, I started re-reading 1984. And though I for some reason remembered verbatim the lines, “The most deadly danger of all was talking in your sleep. There was no way of guarding against that, so far as he could see,” I had otherwise completely forgotten the entire novel, except that it had something to do with Big Brother and telescreens and the Thought Police.
Or, take Indiana Jones, about two minutes of which I caught in passing on a lounge-area television this past weekend. There, too, while I can visually picture certain iconic scenes, and remember a handful of pithy lines, I couldn’t even roughly outline the plot any longer, except that it had something to do with lost artifacts and being chased by Nazis.
In short, it appears I’ve lost the details of pretty much everything I watched or read prior to this decade. Though I suppose it could be worse: my mother can read an entire book, and only when the twist ending seems oddly predictable, realize that she read the book previously, six months back.
Perhaps that’s what I’m trending towards myself, especially as I age. But, on balance, I’m not sure I’d really mind. It must be nice to take something you already know you love, and then experience it again for the first time.