We forget much more than we like to think we do. I’m in denial of this fact much of the time, but I need only glance through the reminder app on my phone to tell me that memories leak from the human brain like water through a sieve, as well as the fact that Siri’s speech to text function doesn’t work very well. I’ll be driving and I’ll tell Siri, “Remind me to email Roger a bid for fifty air movers”, but Siri will hear, “Email badger to bed for 50 stair builders.” Whenever this happens, I tell myself I’ll remember what that goofed interpretation is supposed to remind me to do, and every time, my memory let’s me down. Inevitably, I’ll spend a half hour or more scouring the corners of my dated internal RAM, searching for the memory of who “badger” is and what in the world he wants with fifty stair builders. We forget much more than we like to think we do.
And isn’t it surprising the things we do remember, how often they are the little things in life, the things we’d think ourselves most likely to forget?
Perhaps it’s the people who make the difference, the ones we associate with the memories. The more profound the relationship with a person, the more likely our minds will take hold of a simple moment and never let go.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ll share a few of these simple memories of my mom.
I remember my mom’s voice, singing in church when I was little. I hated going to Sunday school back then, and for a time, my parents would let me stay with them in the adult service. I would lay my head against my mom as she sang the worship songs, and her voice was the most beautiful sound in the world to me.
I remember the Summer my mom came up with a rewards program for me and my brother. If we did a chore, we scored a star, and after we’d accumulated enough stars, she rewarded us by taking us to the Seattle Center to ride the rides. I went through a scary house for the first time that day, and it scared the crap out of me, though I faked like it was no big deal.
I remember my first paper route. Six days a week I carried the newspapers in a pouch and rode my bike, but the Sunday morning paper was too big for me to carry, so Mom would get up early and drive my route with me. I don’t think she liked it at all, but she did it anyway, and she hardly complained.
I remember the few years I turned out to football. I wasn’t a very durable football player. I never got through a season without breaking a bone. My final year of playing, I developed a terrible skin infection on my feet, a reaction to the tape adhesive the trainer used to shore up my glass ankles, and my mom was the one most often tasked with taking me to the foot doctor. She didn’t like me playing football very much; it’s easy to see why. But she stuck it out until I finally came to admit that my body wasn’t built to play football.
And here is one of those small, seemingly insignificant memories that has never dislodged from my mind. I remember a day in college, in a Psychology of Human Relations class. It was Thanksgiving time, and the professor (who wasn’t a fan of commercialized American holidays) surprised the class when she asked each of us to talk about what we were most thankful for that year. Most of the students mentioned being thankful for their opportunities in life; a few suck ups said they were thankful for being able to take this class; one lady said she was thankful for herself. I said I was thankful for my mom. It was harder to say than I would have thought, because I got rather emotional. Mom was recently divorced by this time. It was a strange and difficult time for all of us. “I’m thankful for my mom,” I said. “She’s been through some hard things recently, but she’s very strong. I don’t know what I’d do without her.” The professor commented that my mother sounds like the sort of person a grown son can look up to. A hero. I agreed.
Happy Mother’s Day to my heroic mom. Thanks for the memories that will never go away, and for the memories yet to come.