Thanks For The Memories

The other day my friend Christo and I were talking about those moments.

You know the ones.

The memories that are more vivid than others. It’s just a brief snapshot of time – not really a full-fledged rememberence. Not like “Yeah, I remember when we went to Six Flags, we had the best time” in which you remember more details than say, that time you went to the local flea market amusement park.

No, we were talking about those flickering moments where, beyond all reason, you can revisit as if it happened yesterday as opposed to months or even years ago.

It’s usually something that caused extreme emotion. I know where I was sitting when my mother told me the director of my theater group had died. I remember it didn’t register at first, I was sure I was misunderstanding her.  I remember silently standing up and going up to my room.  Only there did it hit me and the sobs overcame me.

I can easily recall the moment my cousin asked me to be her daughter’s godmother. I remember my heart fluttering with excitement and pulling her into a hug. I remember stepping back to see my mother and aunt huddling together and sniffling off to the side, having known what she was about to ask me, before smothering us with hugs and wet, overjoyed faces.

I remember exactly where I was standing when my mother told me Papa Leo had died.  When I go there, I can even feel the air escape my lungs and the tears pour out before they even knew what they were for.  Such an instant, physical reaction. Quite the opposite from the news of my director.

These are all moments of deep sadness or heightened happiness.  However, there are moments that are ingrained in my brain that don’t have a similar emotion attached to it. At least, not one that I can remember or re-feel when I revisit the memory.

One such time is from when I was in high school.  I was walking down the hallway with some friends, slowing to a stop as we approached room 214 – where I was going in and my friends were not.  As we were finishing up our conversation before parting ways, a girl walked by and said, “Hi, Valerie!”.  I automatically smiled and returned the greeting with a friendly, “Hey!”.  After a beat, my friends noticed me squinting as I watched the girl disappear into the throngs of students. They asked who it was and I shrugged helplessly, “I have NO idea.”

This had never happened to me before. In that moment a lot of things rushed through my head in a matter of seconds.

Is this what popular people feel like?  Do people they don’t know just say hi to them? How could she possibly know me without me knowing her? She’s not in our grade is she? No. I almost definitely haven’t met her before. What if I have met her before? What if I have just totally forgotten this poor, sweet girl who was introduced to me and now I don’t even recognize her face, let alone remember her name or where I could have possibly met her? AM I BECOMING SOME KIND OF MONSTER?

Yes.  My brain went from “this is kind of awesome” to “this is the worst thing ever” in the blink of an eye.  I never did figure out who that girl was or how she could have known my name without me ever having seen her before.  But this moment is one that stays with me. Not with any particular feeling. Maybe it was because it was a new feeling? A new experience? That would explain the next scenario, too, I suppose.

I was four years old. I was in preschool and I still remember the exact layout of the classroom.  I have a lot of flickering memories from my two years at that school, but one pops into my head at the most random times. I was standing at my cubby, getting my things to go home.  And there was a girl from my class standing at her cubby next to mine.  The memory is literally a flash.  It’s just the moment of me looking over to her, who had just turned away from me.  She had long, light blonde hair. The kind of wavy, almost frizzy hair, down to her butt.  Something happened in the moment before this memory.  But I have no idea what.  I’m going to guess it wasn’t something awesome, since the vision leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Maybe it was the first time a peer was ever mean to me. Maybe she said something cruel.  Maybe it was my first taste of jealousy. Maybe I wanted her hair or her backpack or a book she had.  I honestly have no idea. But if we walked into that classroom today (provided it’s even still there), I could position us both in the same exactly places we were on that day.

Sometimes I wish there was a way to replay your memories like a home video.  It almost feels like I could, since most of my memories (including short-term memories…like lunch today or this past weekend) are not in the first person when I pull them up.  I mean, I can sink into the first person if I try, but it’s not their natural state.  So it almost feels like there’s a reel in there, and I just want access to the playback. I want to know how I knew that girl in the hallway. I need to find out what that girl did to make that memory withstand 20 years of forgotten moments.

I don’t want to re-experience them, I don’t want to change anything. I just want to see them.

Is that too much to ask?!

~ by Valerie Anne on 04/27/2011.

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