Where we store lost memories

Chicago still has a bit of the crusty charm I remember from childhood

Chicago still has a bit of the crusty charm I remember from childhood

Earlier this month I got to go back to Chicago with one of my sisters. We grew up there and I lived there in my twenties and thirties. Seeing old friends and revisiting remembered places certainly kicks up a fine dust of memories. I was struck by the different qualities of our respective memories. A lot of my memories have been polished down to images and some associated emotions. My sister, meanwhile, has all that too, but she has a much richer memory of details and information, what happened where and when.

By comparison, I seem to have dumped vast quantities of things: old phone numbers, addresses, dates. And perhaps this makes some sense. In recent years I’ve leaned hard on memory as a practical strategy for vision loss. Things remembered don’t have to be looked up or read off a page.

So I buffed up my memory for memorizing terminology for grad school and for numeric codes I need to put on diagnostic assessments and treatment plans for my therapy internship. I leaned on it to memorize the 246 contractions or abbreviations used in Grade 2 Braille. I used it up committing poems to heart.

And, perhaps that meant that my mind dumped a lot of information about what happened where and when in my many years in Chicago many years ago. Or perhaps dump is not the right word. more like those old memories were crumpled, crushed and pushed aside.. They’re still in there somewhere, but something like an old ball of tinfoil shunted under a kitchen cabinet by the deft paw of a cat long gone. Even if you noticed it amid the hard-to-reach dust bunnies, it would be hard to unfold and make sense of its original form.

The late lamented feline champion of tin-foil-ball soccer.

The late lamented feline champion of tin-foil-ball soccer.