Monday, November 12, 2012

Messy Memories

Sometimes people remember with startling clarity events that seem totally trivial (or completely unmemorable ) to another person. Perspective can etch an event or comment permanently in the mind, or wipe it out completely.

This was clearly demonstrated to me a lifetime or two ago (and countless times since). On that day, Mary, my brother's girlfriend of the time, asked if we remembered the time that I threw the hissy fit. While the singular 30-second snippet of life was stamped indelibly in her mind, I had no recollection of what she was talking about until she shared her tale.

Part of the problem was, hissy fits and temper tantrums (often involving flying objects) were a regular event in my world, and I had a room full of broken (and reglued) stuff to prove it. Some of the explosions most memorable for me occurred when I was alone. Unfortunately, other people remembered the displays outside my bedroom.

In junior high, we had an after school ski program at one of the nearby ski mountains. My parents left early to get to their jobs and we kids walked to school. One week on ski day, having forgotten to leave my books at school the day before, I was schlepping skis, boots and books to school over the wintery, messy sidewalks. The load was heavy and awkward, and approximately every five paces, something dropped -- a ski, the boots, a book.

In total frustration at having made it barely a third of the way to school, the reality of arriving late due to slow progress, and the ridiculous difficulty of the normally simple task of walking, I totally lost it right there on Pine Street. I hurled one of my books into the street (probably with a profanity for effect). I was mad to have forgotten about skiing and taking home homework the day before. Mad that my parents left early for work, leaving me to walk to school loaded like a pack mule with skis and boots. Mad we didn't live a couple streets away so that the bus would at least be a transportation option. Basically, I was mad about everything. After retrieving the book and reassembling the load, I continued to school, still dropping stuff all the way, but feeling slightly better from the exertion of the book toss and recognition of the silliness of my outburst.

In high school, after one of many fights with my Dad, I stomped upstairs to my room (as usual), took off one of my wood-soled clogs, and slammed it toe-first into the floor so hard the bottom of the shoe split. Oops. That wasn't something fixable with the Elmer's Glue.

When I was attending the state college in town, my brother worked the overnight shift in the boiler room at the local sunglass factory and we both lived at home. This one day, my brother, his girlfriend, Mary, and I were at the house. Apparently, there was some difficulty opening the jar of peanut butter. Allegedly, I slammed the jar down onto the kitchen table. The impact of the bottom of the jar left a ridged ring in the wooden tabletop and a clear memory for Mary.

While I didn't remember the specific incident when the story was being told, it sounded like something I would do. There was a bit of a tendency to get all pissy when inanimate objects failed to operate as expected. What was surprising (and embarrassing) to me was how vividly Mary remembered it. Years later, she was recounting the event in detail like it had happened earlier that same day. Evidently, what was normal at our house was quite memorable for visitors.

Fortunately, I have matured and mellowed with age. Now things are broken by accident and rarely in a fury. This may be because I know what things cost now, and I'm more interested in studying why things don't work than flying off the handle and sailing them acrosss the room when they don't. And the lesson of Mary's memory has not been forgotten.

No comments:

Post a Comment