Today I heard actor Michael Gross of 1980's sitcom "Family Ties" fame say that good memories always feel like they just happened yesterday, and that perhaps it was simply a function of age. A seasoned brain at all ages does seem to archive memories without regard to time, emotion or rationale. Our ability to recall is equally as random. Simply put, the process is mind-boggling.
I find it even more interesting how often those good memories are non-memories to other participants. Let me explain.
Imagine yourself a giddy teenager crushing hopelessly on the cutest boy. You had been friends since Junior High and while you knew he was oblivious to your affections you still broke every rule of engagement to make him notice. It was those wickedly blue eyes, his infectious smile and even his shy demeanor that embraced your heart and rattled your brain. Be patient I thought. One day he'll crash heart first into my web of irresistible feminine wiles. Besides, he was an athlete, a bookworm, not a girl chaser. I had a chance.
And then it happened. Luck was on my side. There were not enough people for a second cheer bus to Friday night's basketball game so fans were invited to ride with the team. I waited patiently watching players and cheerleaders alike board the bus. There he was - nice shirt, tie, letterman's jacket - gleaming like a reverent choir boy. I smiled and he walked right past. I had not noticed he was walking closely behind a little Mary sunshine of a blonde acrobatic boy toy. Dare I look? Oh yes, there they were nestled nicely into the back seat of the bus.
Ok, so she was this brazenly cute young thing with a rose petal complexion and teeth that glimmered from New York to Seattle when she smiled. She was so petite and fit that I imagined she could wrap her left leg around the back of her head. I was merely a freckle-faced redhead with a penchant for chocolate chip cookies and Broadway music. My left leg couldn't reach higher than my waist. My dream died that night. We all knew what happened in the back seat of a bus after dark. So how does this relate to memories?
I am still best friends with this blue-eyed phenomenon. He has indeed become the man of the world I envisioned - an intelligent, successful businessman with a beautiful family and an impressive cyclist routine that puts thousands of miles under his feet every year. And no, if you're silently wondering, he did not find happily ever after with that little Mary sunshine of a blonde acrobatic boy toy. But, he does not remember this event. Period. He dares to dangle plausible deniability in the face of that day's staggering emotional scars! How can two people catalog memories so differently? In today's society there would be Instagram photos and Twitter accounts of this life-changing betrayal. But back then we only had our recollections.
The problem with the memory process is that the agony of heartache or even the lack thereof may distort the reality of any event. Perhaps we should just savor the ability to recall at all rather than harbor ill will based on only a memory. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.