Memory can be funny or frustrating

“Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” — Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde

Long-time friend and colleague from our newspaper days, Albert Thompson, paid me a fine compliment after reading a column recently when he said, “Your memory recall is the best ever, or you keep a mean diary, or both.”

Albert’s kind words were sincerely appreciated. Fact is, he was closer to the truth than he probably realized. I’ve always said my goal in writing is to tell a good story sharing something that is memorable to me and why, and hopefully in a manner with which the greatest number of readers can relate and smile.

The memory diary we all have can be funny or frustrating, however, depending on our point of view. And that point of view I’m talking about is too often age. Memories from the age of three, four and five years old come frequently for me, many as vivid as yesterday. On the other end of life’s spectrum, however, memories of this morning better have been written on a note somewhere in plain sight if I’m expected to remember them.

Stories for a column can come from any source that jogs a memory. Just ask me, “Do you remember when …” and chances are the light bulb will come on, and I’ll respond with, “Oh yes, I remember that but haven’t thought about it in years!” Sadly, there may also be times, however, when you ask the same question, and I do not have a clue. Nothing. Not so much as a flicker in the light bulb, not even a faint glimmer. Those moments are usually defined by glazed eyes caused by the energy drain on my brain grasping for any trace of memory activity.

Many of the columns appearing in this space are created utilizing that same cranial logarithm. As the glazed stare between weekly offerings sets in, someone or something will trigger a long-lost memory and once it begins, the rest of it follows…most of the time.

Memory also typically fares better where personal interest is more intense. The best illustration for this phenomenon is best understood by those who are married when your spouse refers to “selective memory.” Like the husband who went to the police station to report his wife as missing.

“What does she look like,” asked the detective. “How tall is she, how much does she weigh, hair color, what was she wearing, things like that.”

After a moment’s thought, the distraught husband responded, “She’s about 5-6, no wait more like 5-8, I think. Weight? Oh, 160 to 170. Well, she lost some weight back in the spring, so maybe 145 now. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. Dark, brown hair, maybe. But I think she said something about dying it a couple of months ago, so I’m not sure. What was she wearing,” the husband hesitated as he repeated the question? “ Jeans…maybe. I didn’t take notice, but she usually wears jeans.”

“What was she driving,” was the next question. “Can you describe the car?”

“Yes sir,” the husband promptly replied, his voice cracking. “She was driving my classic 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, solid white with black and white interior. 46,321 miles, 312 cubic inch Thunderbird motor with automatic transmission, power steering, aftermarket carburetor, valve covers and air cleaner, 6.70×15 white-wall tires, factory wheel covers and fender skirts. It has a small scratch on the passenger door from the last time she drove it.”

“There, there,” the officer consoled the husband. “Don’t worry, we’ll find your car for you.”

If you related to that story and it brought a smile to your face, you understand how memory works. Whether it’s funny or frustrating might depend on age or other personal factors.   

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One thought on “Memory can be funny or frustrating

  1. I hope that the book comes out soon that contains all of your writings. You are a very talented experienced writer with a heart and mind for it. You are a good man Leon. The world is a better place because of people like you. Say what you want the “modern America” doesn’t hold a candle to the America we grew up in. Leslie forwards your post upon receipt of and I always enjoy reading and reminiscing with you.


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