Don’t Forget to Remember

There are times when life is simply too hectic and overwhelming to notice anything that goes on around you; then there are those sunny lazy autumn days, when sensory memory takes over, distant moments flashing through your mind….

“You know, I don’t remember much from back when I was her age… strange…”

The woman in front of me was going on and on about her 14 year old daughter and how she hoped the girl’s adolescence wouldn’t be too wild or troubled.

“Really? I remember everything like it was yesterday,” the words escaped my lips before I knew it.

I didn’t really want to share much, she was such a gossip. Some things become stereotypes for a reason, and she was indeed the prototype of the chatty beauty salon employee, who knows all the spicy details about all her clients and will keep nothing to herself. But as she was regaling me with some of her sister’s childhood exploits (she’s been the good daughter and her sis, the wild one) and her glance seemed lost somewhere in the past, I had trouble believing she didn’t remember; it seemed more like a choice.

I look in the grass for conkers, just like back then. September used to mean a new school year… and conkers. My school was on a street lined with old horse chestnut trees (or conker trees) and I remember that pavement covered with conkers every autumn. Even the older kids couldn’t help picking up a few and stuffing them in their pockets, only to completely forget they had them. The youngest of us collected as many as we could, much to our parents’ despair, and there was always a shrivelled mouldy conker or two to be found in the oddest of places in our homes, months later.

My mind was elsewhere as I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Most of the trees showed no sign that autumn was here, but the leaves of the horse chestnut trees lining the road ahead were starting to turn brown. Suddenly all I wanted was to go to the park, pick some conkers, put them in my pocket and not think of anything else. I didn’t, not right then at least. But a few days later I’m walking on dead leaves in my high heels and I’m looking for conkers in the dry wiry grass. I’m a bit late, I realize, most of the conkers are gone. Nevertheless I still enjoy the walk, I take a few photos and I manage to empty my mind. Then I come back home with two freshly shelled conkers in my “grownup” bag, refreshed by the memory of childish giddiness. I think I’ll keep them for a while… the conkers and the memories.

One of my greatest fears as a child was forgetting and becoming like “them”. Most of the time, I felt “they” didn’t understand me (I know, unbelievable, right?) and, filled with frustration, I kept trying to figure out why. One thing all adults seemed to have in common was that strange ability to forget… to forget what it used to feel like, how important certain aspects could be. I was terrified it might happen to me too. After all, I knew for a fact that my mother used to go through similar experiences with her mother, yet there was no understanding to be found when it came to my issues or mistakes. So why would I be exempt? Every generation appeared to believe they held the universal truth and the only acceptable values. Those who came after them had no idea what they were doing and the proverbial generation gap was becoming almost palpable as I was getting older.

So it was also fear that pushed me to start journaling as a child. I would grow up, that was unavoidable; but I wouldn’t forget, that was something I could control. My plan was to write everything down, all those emotions and thoughts, every relevant experience and all the painful moments, so when I grew up, I would remember. I would remember and I wouldn’t make the same mistakes; I wouldn’t hurt anybody the same way I was hurt, thinking “They’re just a child, they’ll get over it.” I would remember to listen and accept that I’m not the only one who’s right; other people’s truth is also valid and valuable, even if they’re different or merely younger. I would remember and wouldn’t instantly crucify people for what might appear to me as wild behaviour; instead I would try to understand, and if I couldn’t, I would just live and let live.

I wasn’t the only one going through that. We used to talk about it, the children that we were, and we used to promise to be understanding parents, nicer aunts and uncles, better adults altogether. These days however, when I talk to many of those my age (no matter if they have children of their own or not), I can’t help sadly wondering, “When have we become ‘them’?”… Decades later, I still have those old journals and I’m happy I made an effort to keep them. I made an effort to hold on to those memories, and that’s also proving useful, even if in different ways than I would have expected.

Earlier this year, when sorting some old photos and books, I came across a tattered notebook from middle school. We all used to have those memory notebooks, where our friends and classmates answered different questions and in the end they were supposed to leave us some sort of memento. I flipped through pages of favourite bands and actors, of “What is love?” and “What is jealousy?”, of first kisses and first boyfriends/girlfriends, secret crushes and revealed secrets, of cheesy drawings and poems. They all revolved around a need to be remembered and the promise to remember each other and our crazy antics. We had our differences, we weren’t all great friends, but when it came to usurping authority or generally getting into trouble, we were thick as thieves. I smiled. What really struck me, though, were the words of a boy who was my classmate for eight years:

“Many years from now, when you find this notebook among dusty old books, you’re going to remember some crazy kids from 7th grade, on whose school days you left a mark. You’ll smile and think of your childhood and its joys, and the girl who used to scare all the boys with her long nails. I don’t think a poem, a drawing or best wishes are that important; what matters is your heart.”

He probably had no idea how right he was…

Unfortunately, profound thinking was not expected from us at that age; and if anything like that transpired from our behaviour, it was considered a mistake or shallow imitation of something we might have seen on TV or read about in books. After all, depth of thought was the appanage of our parents’ generation.

So once in a while I’ll collect some conkers. I’ll choose to remember, because that’s my way of trying to avoid past mistakes, mine or others’. I’ll dive into a memory, pleasant or otherwise, because I often resurface with a new perspective, or at least refreshed. I will remember, if not for others, at least out of respect for the child I used to be, the child who is still a part of me.

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25 Replies to “Don’t Forget to Remember”

    1. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 It’s somehow reassuring to know those notebooks are still there, in a box, just in case.
      I lost touch with the boy after 8th grade, but I remember he often made surprisingly deep comments, between jokes (he had a great sense of humour, he was a bit of a comedian) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. the comedian side must have been a gift –
        🙂

        I once saw a documentary on Jackie O
        and I liked her a lot less after they depicted her life and whatnot –
        but the curious takeaway for me was when they shared that burned all of her journals and notebooks.
        I get the need for privacy – and she wiped out a lot – but how nice it would have been to maybe see some of those notes from her – maybe it would have shed light on some beautiful things.
        and I guess that Queen Victoria’s daughter edited and hacked away at Victoria’s journals near the end of Victoria’s life… they did leave some stuff – but turns out that even with the editing – and hacking – the letters she wrote to others served as a type of journal record…
        and helps us see more.
        -0
        I am not sure what will be done with my journals when I pass – and I actually might go through them (Lord willing) in about ten years and hack – maybe take out pages that mean a lot…. who knows.

        and I like how you said
        “It’s somehow reassuring to know those notebooks are still there, in a box, just in case.”

        do you think you will ever go through them to edit or discard some?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I won’t deny it, there are certain people who awaken my curiosity, I would really like to know what made/makes them tick. Sadly, the cost of being a public figure is often a brutal loss of privacy. But when these people don’t get a say in what happens to them, it’s when things go too far; that’s unacceptable, in my opinion.
          As for my old notebooks… it’s difficult to say what might happen to them. My first thought at the moment is that I wouldn’t want to edit/destroy them. But we all know how our lives can change in the blink of an eye, so I really cannot tell for sure. That’s something I’ll have to revisit; but if I were to die today, I know I’d like to leave them to someone I care for a lot, that might make it easier on them.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. re: But when these people don’t get a say in what happens to them, it’s when things go too far; that’s unacceptable, in my opinion.

            I totally agree.
            and it is sad the way many have their privacy invaded.

            and i have a little story regarding saving stuff – I have saved most of my children’s journals (stuff they would have tossed in high school) and recently I pulled out a few things for son 2 and we had a laugh (oh the joy) and something he wrote about at 6. It was hysterical – and reminded me that we do not need to keep these items – it can be a rich part of the times we want to reflect. Some keep the old Stingray or Porsche – and take precious garage space to house it. Some keep heirloom furniture or jewels – and our journals (and scrapbooks) have such worth!

            Liked by 1 person

            1. How great you kept those items and you could share a beautiful moment reminiscing 🙂 The memories and feelings are there, in our minds and souls, but keeping certain material tokens of the past reminds/helps us access them when we need to. I think the past can sometimes become obscure, surreal, unbelievable, so having something tangible keeps us connected to those stages of our existence as well… perhaps that’s also why we need to hold on to certain things. All’s well, as long as we don’t start hoarding 😀

              Liked by 1 person

              1. oh you are so right – hoarding is no bueno and I can see how some people accidentally fall into it.

                It is the memories they want – and they might just love their stuff – and so they need to look at their relationship to the stuff.
                I used to watch hoarders (tx show0 about ten years ago and I loved many of the professional psychologists and organizers that would come on.
                The newer show was called “Hoarders – buried alive” and that one was so gross I actually wanted to throw up and had to stop a couple of episodes.

                But it was so amazing to see some of the lives of the people behind the hoarding. but yuck, what a tricky condition to treat and not a formula.

                and with the stuff I have – I have a stack of the scrapbooks in the middle of the closet – I once condensed scrapbooks so some ten page ones were combined, But then I left them because some short ones were good that way.
                In the 1990s and early 2000s – I made my share of scrapbooks – did you make any? It seems like it was the trend – and my art side enjoyed it –
                oh and
                re:

                I think the past can sometimes become obscure, surreal, unbelievable

                so true
                and sometimes it can be completely forgotten

                Liked by 1 person

              2. You mentioning the show (I know about it, but I wasn’t really a fan) reminded me of some news stories about people whose homes became a health hazard, much to the neighbours’ despair. Disgusting, but more than that, so scary… I’ve seen someone become a hoarder (fortunately it didn’t get as bad as it could have), just one of those things that happen almost without noticing it on the spot, not until it’s almost too late. Anyway, I was a child then, I couldn’t understand much of what was going on, or help in any way, but that story stuck with me. Now I can clearly see many of the triggers for their behaviour; and it’s sad that the person was constantly blamed, rather than helped.
                Anyway… on a lighter note, I wasn’t really into scrapbooking (photo albums don’t count, do they? 🙂 ). I do have my postcard collection, neatly placed into a couple of albums, but that’s about it. But I think you’re right about it being something of a trend back then.

                Liked by 1 person

              3. Interesting memory of the hoaorder – and photo albums sorts count…
                But I guess the scrapbook was to arrange and make pages with themes (and for a while a bit cost as the items were often overpriced)
                Sometimes I liked to take my boys to some of the parties -usually one flat fee gives you a book and misc items – like one time they had denim 5 x 5 books and a lot of sports stickers and my son still has his mini book

                The last scrabook event we attended was right when we moved to VA – it was a food party – lots of junk food too – more than scrapping – but it also was not us anymore

                Liked by 1 person

              4. Well I think it worked in many of the creative memories parties (the company that went out of business and just remember the social meet up was a big part of it – share ideas and get the themed good of the week – like a small baggie with a yellow border – sun and water and clouds stickers and maybe a chisel too pen – yours free for coming to the party (and then a different freebie if you ordered so much)
                So what was different was the amount of food and the feasting at the one we went to -it was an eat meet up

                Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m glad you’re holding onto your conkers and memories. Thank you for sharing this. And also? I’m astounded by that 7th-grade boy’s maturity. I can’t even imagine anyone I knew (myself included) taking the time to write such a thoughtful and well-worded note at that age.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, Tracy! We all had our moments, but I think he was a lot less concerned with being “cool”, so he often said certain things many of us wouldn’t have dared utter, even if we thought them. He was certainly more mature and sentimental than some of us 🙂

      Like

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