What I Don’t Remember

Andilit has a wonderful blog. In a recent post she talked about the book Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg is a writing teacher, and this book is about how to write memoir.

She states that first we must know how to remember, a skill I need to develop as my memory is as hole-y as swiss cheese. She gives exercises and writing prompts on how to discover forgotten memories. One such prompt is to write for 10 minutes about what you don’t remember.

What I don’t remember?? Hmmm. It’s odd how trying to think of things you don’t remember brings up a plethora of things you do. But perhaps that’s the point. Here are just a handful of things I don’t remember.

1. I don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, I guess because it was unimportant and I was distracted by worry over a medical procedure my daughter was having.
2. I don’t remember learning to read, although I have vivid memories of learning to write (with a purple crayon, on the walls of my bedroom).
3. I don’t remember learning to swim.. it seems I’ve always been able to do that.
4. Junior high is a blur.
5. I don’t remember the first time I held hands with a boy, but I do know who the boy was.
6. I don’t remember watching the sun rise or set for the first time ever.
7. I don’t remember the first time I smoked a cigarette, although I do remember the last time, even after many years.
8. I don’t remember the first time I held my baby brother (I was 12) but I do remember my sister coming home from the hospital (I was 2).

Memory is so random! Why do certain, often meaningless trivial things, leave an indelible impression, while other much more important memories are lost? And are they truly lost, or is memory like a computer hard drive.. the info is there even though we may no longer be able to access it (at least not without some technical assistance)?

I invite you to try this exercise and tell us what you don’t remember. Leave a link in the comments. I would especially like to tag a few favorite bloggers: Chartroose, Trish, Bookbabie, Lyndsey, and Kim. There are a couple real writers in that crowd, so the answers should be interesting.

12 Responses

  1. Thanks for linking to my post, and just to participate here as well – I also don’t remember my first day of school, although I can remember my first day. I don’t remember when my brother came home from the hospital, but I do remember seeing him and my mom there before he came home.

    Thanks again.

  2. I vaguely remember my first day of school. I remember seeing my brother in the hospital. I am sure that there are other things. This is a great idea. Also, I have read “Writing Down the Bones” which is Natalie Golderberg’s other book. She is a good instructor.

  3. That does look like an interesting exercise. I have read Goldberg’s other book “Writing Down the Bones” and enjoyed it. She has such good perspective and teaches well through her writing.

  4. I’ve posted. Thanks for asking me! I hope your daughter is recovering well.

    I remember holding hands for the first time too. It was a momentous occassion!

  5. […] entry from Books on the Brain inspired this post. I read Lisa’s response to a writing challenge from Natalie […]

  6. Thanks for posting this intriguing exercise. I have posted my short list in my new blog, Blink of an Eye.

    I can’t believe I haven’t read “Writing Down the Bones”! Now I have two new books to read. Love your blog.
    Back later.

  7. 5. I don’t remember the first time I held hands with a boy, but I do know who the boy was.
    Thanks for stopping by Smoke and Mirrors.
    Think I’ll be stopping back here again real soon . . .

  8. I loved your unmemories– they definitely mirror some of my own. I’ll try to post mine today.

  9. […] 10, 2008 by trish I was tagged by Lisa for this meme, and at the end of the post where she’s tagging people, she says, “I […]

  10. Hope things with your daughter are improving Lisamm please feel free to email me if you need to talk. Memory is a strange thing…do you know about the drug for memory that they can give people,especially children, when they are having difficult procedures? It is a sort of retroactive amnesia I suppose you would call it…they do not remember the procedure or the trauma or fear or pain etc. I had it when they messed up my lumbar punctures…had needles in my spine for about two and a half hours…and the next day they still had to try to find out what was wrong and they gave me the drug and I have no memory of that day’s procedure…if only they could have made it last longer!! It is called midazolin..hope things are improving.

  11. Thanks for all the great comments. Lyndsey, I love your word “unmemories”. I look forward to reading yours. Magik, thank you. We are waiting for test results (very scary).

  12. Love Natalie Goldberg, so will try the exercise. A great idea.


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