The Things We Don't Forget

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The Things We don’t Forget


The phrase “memory full” should be tattooed on my forehead. I can ask my neighbor her name one moment and forget it by the time I turn around. I forget homework, passwords, keys, books, phones, credit cards, names, addresses and…well I forget what else I forget. This is why I am astonished at how we all have at least one memory that we can recall in perfect detail. These certain memories are not necessarily ones of importance, like your best friend’s wedding, or your first kiss. These memories can be as insignificant as the look on your mother’s face when she caught you sneaking out to go to the “there’s absolutely no way you are going there” party, a cloudy day when all you could think about were the blues and grays and purples in the sky, or the day after your birthday, when you know you’re older but the notches of your timeline don’t seem to be distinct enough to notice. When these moments occur, our minds go into hyper mode and we can absorb every detail and sense in brilliant color.  


I was ten when my mind began to make this permanent mark on my memory record. As I sat in the dirt, knowingly staining the backside of my jeans, I dug a shallow trench on my right to store the bits and pieces of rock and shell that I had excavated from my dig site that was on my left. Looking at my hands, I could see every line and crevice that had collected the red-brown soil. I thought of how this map on my hand would make it easier for a fortune teller to read my future. I was sitting in my favorite spot. This spot was at the top of an embankment that came up on one side of the gravel road that led to the barn. On that embankment a lone tree jutting out the side. In the summer, the cool ground under the tree gave me a moments rest after playing with my dog. My spot wasn’t too particularly special. But I loved to be there.


On that day, when I was being an archaeologist, I remember watching the trains go by. I always counted each cart, carrying its load of coal that heaped over the top. The train usually pulled around sixty carts, but that day it carried much more than that. As I watched the tracks bounce up and down under the train’s weight, I could finally see the last cart approach. The caboose of the train was always my favorite part because the operator there would always wave at anyone who was looking. I never knew who he was or what he looked like, but when my sister and I heard the train whistle we would sprint outside just to wave at the caboose man. The caboose was the most important part of the train to me. This is why I felt it the highest honor to be the caboose, not the line leader, in kindergarten.


As I sat in the dirt, watching the caboose turn the corner, out of my sight, I noticed a humming noise. It slowly turned into a whining-like humming noise. It reminded me of the sound wood bees made when they drilled into the side of my grandfather’s stair rails. When the bees would make nests and swarm in the summer, he would go outside and swat at them with his tennis racket. It would always make me laugh to see him chasing these bees until he would finally smack the buzz out of them. The humming noise started to get louder as the train moved further away. I looked directly above my head and saw a bi-plane passing right above the tree. At first, it scared me to know how close the plane was to the ground I was sitting on. I felt the rush of the wind past me and my favorite spot. The leaves of the tree blew around above me, and the soil made a mini tornado on the gravel of the road. The power line on the opposite bank swung back and forth, startling the robins that perched there. I stood and turned to watch the plane fly into the clouds and I felt the wind disappear.


I honestly don’t know why I remember this moment in my life. There was no particular importance to that day. It was not my birthday, nor was it any holiday. I still wonder why my mind chose that moment in time to engrain in my memory. I often think to myself, that if I put particular emphasis in my head to remember a certain moment, that I can add another moment like that one to my brain. I have no other memories that I can recall in such vivid detail or feeling. I can see every leaf on the tree, every coal-mound on the train carts, and every robin that flew off of the swinging power line. I can smell the limestone dirt that was under me, the just-mowed grass from across the road, and the mixed smell of sweet hay and cow manure that will always be our farm. I can feel the small rocks and shells that I discovered in their shallow covering of dirt, and the strong gust of wind that never really left me.   

Created: Jan 06, 2012

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