Today I’m going to talk about the light of memory.

I have one of those brains that gloms (glomms?) on to trivium.  I completely come by it honestly.  My genetic heritage is a long line of “mush-brains.”  This is what my family calls people who can store tons and tons of seemingly non-pertinent information until that one perfect moment when the trivia is perfectly pertinent.  (Ken Jennings is THE mush-brain.) Spend one game night with my family and you will understand what I mean.  It must be experienced to truly be understood.

Thankfully, this mental capacity to latch onto something has made my memory recall a really interesting thing.  I don’t know how YOUR memory recall works, but I do know that I have more than once been informed that mine is different.  It’s this super-associative, super-weird combination between photographic memory, situational memory, and sensory memory.  I’m going to attempt to explain it, but this is MY brain we’re talking about so do not blame me if it sounds like a jumbled mess.

My brain flashes freeze scenes from the particular day, kind of like NCIS:LA does that picture overlap thing (tried to find an example, but couldn’t–it’s sort of a collage-y thing and yet not . . .).  Much of the time this is triggered by being in a similar situation or similar place.  I swear, I get brain ambushed at the weirdest times, often because I am facing the same direction that I was when a particular memory was made.  It’s weird and I have no idea why my mental camera depends so much on my visual perspective to recreate memories.  But it’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life and learned to use.  When I have trouble recalling conversations or events, I will actually turn around until I am facing the same way I was at the time, which almost always allows me to bring up the information I’m searching for.*  And as for the sensory, once my brain has flashed those pictures at me, often there are sensory bites (like sound bites, you know) that play out in conjunction with the flashy picture collage-y thing.  Smells, sounds, physical sensations–all these things are so firmly entrenched in these memories that they cannot be separated.

I love it.  It’s super weird and totally odd.  But it allows me to REALLY remember–there’s an insane clarity to my memories.  I have memories from so young I don’t know when they were, I can still feel Best Jess (a roommate from my Freshman year of college) pressing a kiss to the top of my head on her way out the door–just because, and every time my stomach lurches in anticipation I can still smell the light cherry blossom scent of the lotion that I used for the duration of my first serious relationship.

Super crazy, huh?

So, as you might be able to tell, memory is a really interactive and reactive thing for me.  Some days, it’s really intense.  But every day, it’s illuminating.  I’m constantly surprised by my own brain when a memory re-surfaces–what I remember best, what sounds and scents really impressed themselves upon me, the direction I was facing.

This morning, went into the restroom to do my hair (which hates me) and found myself ambushed by one of these memories: I heard Pookie (my other roommate Freshman year of college) cry, “Look at your cute Dorothy Hamill hair!”  The winter static has worked it’s magic in a GOOD way.  When I was a Freshman in California, this happened all the time.  Pookie was the first person to point it out, but there was a vendor on campus who nicknamed me Dorothy because of the feathery hair phenomenon.  Hearing him say, “Hello, Dorothy!” every day in his thick Asian accent was the next memory that came rolling in, and yes, I saw a picture of him in my head standing behind his booth, smiling at insecure, Freshman Joie.  All because my hair looked similar to those days back in California.

The wonderful thing about this is, I hadn’t thought of that cute little vendor in forever.  I certainly hadn’t thought about the joy that came from having Dorothy Hamill hair.  That first time my roommate complimented it was pretty funny (when I’m confused, I am often unintentionally hilarious) and it’s a beautiful memory.  The joy of having a stranger remember me and make a point of saying hello to me every day was a pleasure to recall.  This is why I love my weird, wacky memory.  One memory, something so insignificant as Dorothy Hamill hair, can make my day light.


*For those of you who never knew why I spin around when I’m trying to remember things, now you know.  Thanks for just rolling with it.