Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Oddly specific memories

I remember being at my grandmother's house for some holiday party in the mid-80s and hearing my uncle or somebody say that the Bangles were playing. I excitedly raced to the TV, but what he meant was the Bengals. (Isn't childhood just a string of disappointments?) This was triggered by seeing the word "Bengal" in an article about zoos I was skimming over lunch. Funny that this memory was never triggered by any of the many times I have seen the word "bangle" in the past 20 years (e.g. reading the J.Crew catalog). I also remember being at my friend Krissy's house, probably in kindergarten or maybe first grade, with her older sister Shannon and one of her friends, and Shannon crying out "I get to be Susanna Hoffs!" In lieu of actual dress-up, Krissy and I would often just declare who it was that we looked like and what we were wearing; Jennifer Connelly in The Labyrinth was a popular choice, especially in the ballroom scene where she's dolled up in the sparkly-poufy dress and, come to think of it, Susanna-Hoffified hair. (The teased-up-rat's-nest look was big then.)

I often remember exact lines of dialogue from past conversations. Is it crazy to believe with 100% conviction that they're accurate? (You can't prove me wrong!)


  1. i also remember very specific lines of dialogue from memories. it freaks people out. my mom is this way, too. i'm also very nostalgic and in a way i wish i had a worse memory so i wouldn't annoy people when i'm always like "omg remember this time?! and you said X?! and it was hilarious?!" and they're like, no.

    1. Oh totally, I remember good contextual jokes forever. Mine too, if people laugh at them! These memories are often triggered by words, I'm realizing -- just last night John said "whence" and I remembered this one time like 8 years ago that I was in a car with some people merging onto a highway from the right, and the guy in front of us had his right blinker on, and I said (you know, like I was doing his voice), "This is the direction from whence I came!"

  2. This is the kind of stuff poetry is made of, no?

    I also have many specific, that also leap out at the most random possible times. For instance, Elisa, just as I was reading your comment here in the comment box (about the memory conjured up by "whence," being in a car merging onto a highway, etc.), I flashed on one Friday night in the spring of 1975 in Chicago, in a VW van with four other people, and the engine died at a busy intersection. And the car had a bad ignition, sometimes wouldn't start, and so four of us had to get out of the van and push while the driver steered, and we pushed it on a wide curve through the intersection and over to the curb on the cross-street. And by some miracle every car in the intersection saw us and understood what was going on, and they all waited until we got over to the curb safely.

    Then we took our stuff out of the van and walked to the YM/YWCA a few blocks away, and wrangled rooms for the night.

  3. I remember going to some Van Gauguin exhibit or other in Chicago. I sat with a nervous Chinese guy in the back of a jalopy owned by a Hispanic couple. They sat in front and conversed in Spanish the whole trip. At the museum I felt as though I were still on the road: the dense traffic of cognoscenti swept me past each Impressionist expressway sign. Hobbling back to Ann Arbor through darkness and rain, the lemon ran out of juice or something. We were stranded on the shoulder. The Hispanic girl and I walked a few miles down I-96--these were pre-cell days--and staggered into a gas station soaked to the bone. She called a tow truck, and we spent the next few hours in a mechanic's shop where I had a styrofoam cup of coffee and a Snickers bar.

  4. Lyle and David, both your comments have me nostalgic for all the ways life was different before cell phones. So much more opportunity for disaster/adventure!

    Remember the commercials for 1-800-COLLECT?

  5. Okay, so now another memory, conjured by David's account of being stranded on highway shoulder --

    When I was a kid, maybe not in school yet, or early grade school at most, we went to visit my mom's parents in Webster City, Iowa. We made many such trips -- both my parents were originally from Iowa, and all the relatives lived there when I was a kid.

    It was winter, probably around one of the holidays. We went to visit one of my mom's brothers in a nearby town (maybe 20 miles away), either Fort Dodge or Sac City. We were there for most of the day, then toward evening we started back to Webster City as it was starting to snow.

    The snow picked up considerably, and pretty soon it was hard to see the road. My dad was driving, my mom was in the front passenger seat, and I was in the back seat with my grandma. (My sister must have been there too, though I'm not specifically remembering her -- she may have been napping in the front seat or back seat.)

    After a while it was so hard to navigate the road that my mom rolled down the car window on her side, and she leaned her head out the window and watched the edge of the road so we wouldn't stray to close to it. So there's winter wind blowing in through the car window, we're going I don't know how slow, my mom is shouting directions to my dad, and Grandma has wrapped her coat around me in the back seat so I'll keep warm.

    And little by little we made our way to Webster City. And when we got to the edge of town, the police were there, and they had the road blocked off -- to keep people from leaving town. And their jaws dropped when they saw this carload of people show up out of the blinding blizzard. They were just flabbergasted that anyone could have made it through.

    If we'd known how bad the blizzard was, we might not have attempted it, but it wasn't that bad when we started out.

    No cell phones back then either.

    1. I had a night just a few months ago in Colorado that sounds vaguely similar, though not quite as treacherous -- we got caught driving back from Boulder to Denver in some icy snow and our heater wasn't working. The problem there is that it's not just cold in the car, you can't defrost the windows. So we had to keep rolling down the windows and trying to wipe them down in a fashion in order to be able to see shit. NOT pleasant.