Isn't it weird the number of things we forget? I figure if we count the number of things we've forgotten (which of course, logistically, we wouldn't be able to), we'd find that they far, far outweigh the things we remember. It doesn't even seem biased towards happy things. Right? We forget with equal frequency sad things, happy things, important things, trivial things.
One of the oldest memories I have is of walking in circles on a tire that had fallen over on its side in my school play ground. With this other boy from my class (I don't even remember his name). It was a 15 minute break between classes. We didn't talk. At all. The whole time. We just balanced on that tire for 15 minutes (it was a large tire, I think from the school bus, we both could walk on it at the same time, easy). I can remember that 15 minutes of my life in graphic detail down to the grains of sand around the tire. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Obviously. For whatever reason. But that's it. That's my enduring memory from something like the first ten years of my life. Neat, no?
I remember my first kiss. Also in graphic detail (but it's not because it was perfect-which it was- because I also remember some awful kisses - the sloppy kind, eww- and it's not just because it was a kiss (I'm sure I've forgotten quite a few)). I remember everyone in my high school class hitting this fat kid (not really hitting, but kinda fooling around with her). I walk up to her and go "Are you ok?" and she bursts into tears and when the biology lady comes into class all concern, promptly accuses me of bullying her (you can see why I'd remember that, my first taste of the injustice that is life). Several dramatic things happened in my life around the time. And either my folks or my friends from back then are forever going "Dya remember.." and I invariably go "Nuh-uh, I don't. What did he do again?"
After that it only got worse. Those were the good years, memory-wise. Maybe as you get older, things just run into each other. You don't know if you went to that really cool taco place at 4 in the morning this weekend or last weekend or maybe last year. Where A threw up. Remember? Oh no wait wasn't it M who threw up and then S carried her home? And wasn't that in UK?
Memory cues still work. But again for the most random things. I associate This is the Last Time with a snowy Saturday morning that I spent in my dorm room (dreadfully depressing) sitting on my windowsill. That's it. The whole story. Nothing happened. Noone came. The cute Brit boy whose window opened out on the opposite side of the square from mine didn't stick his head out the window and wave. The carpet lady didn't dust her carpet out into the square. Nothing. Just me, the snow, the windowsill and the radio.
The point though (should I write this in bold for all of you who skipped the last two paras?) is that we do remember life lessons, by and large. Maybe the human brain is wired to forget details (like names and places and people and bfs and bffs and phone numbers and the time you thought you'd die because you were so embarrassed and could never show your face in school again) but to remember the big picture. The thoughts, the theories, the major mistakes and why it's important to drink tons of water when you're six vodka martinis down, they stay. Could that be the way it works? Maybe not. Because I know lots of people who do remember the details, every last one. Is it a question of recycling? Maybe, if you have a job that makes you think a lot your brain accommodates by letting you clear up headspace. Maybe this is the difference between thinkers and doers. The thinkers forget and the doers don't.
I don't know the answer. I do know, however, that the most persistent guilt I have is the one associated with not remembering people who were really important to me at some point in my life. Or only vaguely remembering them. Or remembering them but not remembering why I do. This, I know (and yes, I am also aware of the random youtubing in this post - I have three words for you: It Was Fun). The cure, for the curious and the similarly afflicted, is to abase yourself at the altar of their injured expressions with disarmingly candid admissions of ignorance. Always works. And once they remind you, you generally tend to remember.
Reconstruction is a marvelous thing.