Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory"-- Albert Schweitzer

I have a horrible memory. The only reason I don't forget my name is because someone calls me it on a daily basis.

I've always had a bad memory; I inherited it from my mother. Forget implanting computer chips into the brain to increase its function, I need to implant Ginseng.  

My mom used to joke that after teachers stopped pinning parent notifications to my clothing in kindergarten, she never knew what the hell was going on at the school.  I'm sure she meant to call and find out and then forgot. 

My father? Never forgets anything. Ever.  But the shit he reminds me of is not often helpful.

My mother's sister, Sheree, is her antithesis in memory.  She remembers even the most minute details.  Her brain is like a computer.  Every time Mom and I are trying to recall the details of a family event, or someone's birthday, or who bought who what the Christmas of 2000, we always say, "We'll have to ask Sheree." And be damned if she doesn't always know. She should have gone to the casting-call of Unforgettable.

In college, if I had to remember to do something when I got home, I used to call myself and dictate reminders on my answering machine. And my messages to myself would always start with, "Hey, it's me . . ."  The system worked unless my roommate got home first, listened to the messages and then did not give me the message from me. Fortunately, this didn't happen often; we had been friends for years and knew well of my handicap.

I graduated to post-it-notes when they began selling nationwide in the 1990s.  (An interesting fact: post-it-notes were first manufactured in Cynthiana, Kentucky. My mom's name? Cynthia.) Of course, I'd have to stick them on bathroom mirror or eye-level on the inside of the front door for them to be effective. 

With today's technology, I can program a reminder into my phone--and don't think I don't program more than one for the same thing.  Most people's reminders are about doctor appointments and social gatherings; mine are more like "don't forget to put on underwear."

But I find that teens have even worse memories than I do.  The first couple months of school, I reply to the 15-20 questions I get a day that start with "Do you remember?" with "I don't remember anything."

By the end of the semester, students have adjusted their opener to "you may not remember, but . . ." There isn't any "may" about it; I don't remember.  Eventually, they move on to, "I know you don't remember, but remember last week . . ." of which I simply say, "no" or if feeling particularly feisty I say, "I can't remember what I did five minutes ago, let alone what you said to me last week."

Point is, they never remember that I don't remember anything.  Nevertheless, I am skeptical of what teens claim to "forget." When one tells me that he forgot his notebook in his locker or that he left his backpack at home, I question his honesty.  How does one walk to class or out his front door to school empty-handed and not realize that something is missing?

They don't forget their cellphones. Ever.

Or when a student tells me he/she "forgot" to turn his/her homework, I always say, "How do you 'forget' to turn in homework, when you are surrounded by 35 of your classmates who are passing their papers in as I walk about saying, 'don't forget to put your name on your homework'?"

But, the other day a student forgot something that baffled me. It was the the first day back to school from Winter Break, and I was greeting my students at the door.  As one young man came shuffling down the hall, he suddenly stopped short, threw his head back and groaned.  

"Ms. Vance," he said.  "Can I go back to my car? I forgot something."

He had his backpack, so I inquired about what he needed at that moment.

"I forgot my tooth," he said and smiled.  One of his front teeth were missing.

How does one forget his tooth?  At the age of 18?  His tooth?  In my 17 years of teaching, I have never gotten that one; so, I let him go to his car--my laughter following him the whole way.


  1. Just when you thought you'd heard everything...

  2. Teachers hear EVERYTHING! LOL I agree, I'd be truly lost without my smartphone reminders.


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