In the process of cleaning my house I have come to realize that I am something of a pack-rat. This arose thanks to my recent post about nostalgia and I recalled that in my bedroom closet resides a Pound Puppy, a butt-nekkid Cabbage Patch Kid by the name of Marceline Eda, and a set of handmade Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. I have a pair of buckle-shoes that can now house my large toe, and principal awards from the first grade. I have random boxes in closets and cupboards containing report cards, homecoming ribbons, pressed flowers, photographs, birthday cards, school announcements, pictures, and various construction-paper cutouts. All four of my yearbooks and one of my husband’s rest on the bookcase.
I keep these things to remind myself that I am a being of substance, that I have a past that includes elementary school, art classes, playing the recorder, my first boyfriend, Madonna. I have this unfortunate problem which prevents me from remembering events in my life. So many times my husband will ask me, “Remember when I introduced you to…?”
I do not.
I never remember. What I do know is that my first address, which I had until I was 10, was 16025 SE 134th St. Renton, Wa. 98056. I know that when I was 8 my phone number was (206) 255-7057. I do not know who has that number now. Perhaps I should call it and see.
I remember the four base pairs of DNA are adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine. I know the quadratic formula, Pythagorean theorem, Kingdom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-species, a cornucopia of architectural terms, French. I know the lyrics to hundreds of songs.
But I cannot recall the inside of the church where I was married, visiting Mount Rushmore, what me and Bryan’s first apartment looked like. Unless I have studied it, committed it to memory, or have a photograph of it, in my brain, it doesn’t exist.
A study concluded that most people with temporal lobe epilepsy (like myself) have memory problems. This fact has helped me in a small way, convincing me that I am not insane. When I was a teenager my parents used to get angry at me when I would forget things, saying that I just didn’t think they were important enough to remember.
They are important. I have boxes and boxes to prove it.
So though I may be the subject of mockery for my sentimental attachments to goofy pieces of my long-ago past, these relics help me to understand that I am not just now; this moment. There were events and happenings before now that were also “me”. I have a tendency to look at my past in the third-person, as if I’m remembering someone else. Despite the mementos, I still have this problem. This makes me feel damaged; I am missing out on my own life.
But through my photos and dozens of journals I have kept since I was 11, I can piece together a life past that helps me understand my life now. My journals help me realize that it is not lost; the words in my own writing help me understand that it is indeed me who is telling the story, and it feels safe. Another reason why family is so important. They are my connection to my past; witnesses to a life that I may not be able to remember.
So now that I realize that I have strayed from a funny story about my butt-nekkid Cabbage Patch and into a reflective insight into my own mental infirmary, I think I shall get back to my cathedral painting and say enough of all this sentimental babble.
Am I not merciful?