Memory is such a funny thing.
On Sunday, I decided to have Beauty and the Beast playing in the living room while I cooked meals for the week. I haven’t watched it in years and only a handful of times in adulthood, yet I still remembered every single line. I admittedly watched it nearly every day in the summer of 1992, but still. Why is it still in there when so many other things probably should be.
But in the same afternoon, I opened the oven door and stuck my head in to grab the tray of roast veggies and got a face full of steam, instantly fogging up my glasses. It happens every time without fail. I should know by now it will. In fact, I do! I admonished myself, as I always do. How can I so easily forget something so basic?
I remember every line of My Fair Lady the last time I watched it, too. I can sing the songs at the drop of a hat. I can still play my flute despite never touching it. I still know the words of Rachmaninov’s Bogorodiste Devo and randomly sing the soprano part of the song just because, you know having a Russian ave marie is something that every person wants to carry around all the time. I can comfortably talk about movies and books that I haven’t seen or read for years. I can sing Monty Python’s Galaxy Song at the drop of a hat.
But I can’t seem to remember to put bottles of water in my bag to take to work with me despite drinking it every day. I leave my wallet in the wrong bag. I forget to take the pills I am meant to take every day. I struggle with basic grammar rules like when to use who and whom and kick myself when I look it up and say, “Of course!”, yet I write almost daily.
I wonder about the power of the mind. The way it stores memories as a hard drive stores data. How does it choose what to keep and what goes? Is there a little person in there that just randomly deletes stuff to get room for new stuff? If so, why does it keep knowledge of Glorfindel and Ghan-buri-ghan (Lord of the Rings characters that were not in the movies) but not any details of the hundreds of other books you’ve read over my life? I can understand not remembering it if it was forgettable or boring (I’m looking at you, Scarlet Letter and Old Man and the Sea – even though you both are very important in the landscape of American literature), but many are not.
I understand things like muscle memory is not actually memory, but it still baffles me. Like when I get a haircut and consciously remind myself that I’ll need less shampoo, but still end up with a palm full of shampoo rather than a dime-size. Or when in that same example my hand tries to pull my hair from under my blouse after I’ve put it on, but there’s nothing there.
I wonder if that is why in this year’s election so many people are forgetting the Bush-Gore election. All those supporting the independent parties have readily forgotten what happened when Nader took so many potential votes from Gore. How would the world have been different then? How will the world be changed by the Johnson’s this election year?