The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory

You know that thing people do when they get to the end of the year or they have a big anniversary or something, and they say, “Can you believe it’s been fifty years since we slayed the vacuum cleaner robot monster?”

I hate that.

Because seriously? Yes, I can believe it’s been however many years since whatever important event. I realize that it often seems like less time, but you know what? That’s because your brain is screwed up.

Don’t take offence, mine is screwed up too. It’s our memories really. They trick us. We think of them like snapshots or movies of the past, bits of information retained in our brains for years to come. But thing we fail to realize is this: we don’t remember what we don’t remember.

Those years that seem like they just flew by, that summer that was done before you knew it? Those times didn’t just zoom by like a speeding train. But you think they did. Because bits and pieces fall through the cracks. There are things that happened that you mind decided wasn’t worth saving, entire portions of your life that have simply been erased.

And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m glad. Because on the whole, my life has been boring. Six years I’ve worked at Walmart. Six years. You know how many details of that banal existence are actually worth storing?

Answer: not very many.

But some things I do remember. I remember the day my wife came to work as a cashier. She wasn’t my wife at the time of course, she was just some cute girl with a nice smile. And I walked up to her and said, “Hi, my name is Al. I work back in the Sporting Goods department.” And then I paid for my drink and went and read a book or something.

And later when she was on her break she came back to Sporting Goods looking for me. She said, “I wasn’t sure if you were telling the truth or if that was just some kind of pickup line.”

And I said, “What the heck kind of pickup line is, ‘I sell guns at Walmart’?”

And then we got married.

And really if you think about it, it’s good that your mind doesn’t keep all the boring stuff. Because what that faulty memory is doing, what it’s really doing is making your life into a story. And sometimes it’s not even a true story.

As a storyteller myself I can respect that. It may seem like a horrible loss to be shed of all those moments of your life, moments you’ll never get to experience again, but in the end it comes down to simple editing. So while I don’t have to remember hours and hours of trivialities, I will always be able to reach back and touch that childhood moment when I had been out playing in the streets of my neighborhood, and the summer sun had finally gone down and the street lights were coming on, and in that moment I felt… unbelievably happy.

Moments like that are worth saving, stories like that are worth telling myself over and over again. So to my brain, I say, “Bravo, brain. Bravo.”


7 responses to “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory

  1. “What kind of a pickup line is ‘I sell guns at Wal-Mart.” And then we got married.
    LoL! Good, thoughtful post Al.

  2. Love it, Al! Some memories are best forgotten!

  3. Aww, I love hearing about how people meet their spouses. 🙂 Great point about our brains editing out the boring parts!

  4. Oh dear, this one made me tear up. I love your perspective. What an absolutely charming way to look at it, “Because what that faulty memory is doing, what it’s really doing is making your life into a story.” Thank you, Al.

  5. Pingback: The End is Near (and we deserve it). . . . Man Shoots Off His Finger to Get Rid of Wart « Author Piper Bayard

  6. Love it! So true about memory. I’m sure there’s stuff I’d be glad I’ve forgotten if I even remember what it was…LOL. My hubby’s pick up line had something to do with going to see The Sixth Sense. Interestingly enough, we didn’t actually end up seeing that movie until we’d been married 6 months.

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