I have a decent memory, for some things. I’m bad with remembering names, but somehow not the names of celebrities. It’s mostly embarrassing. When I was in High School I did theater and learning my lines became a sort of ritual. I would record every line of dialogue into a tape recorder, then I would write down every line in a notebook, and then I would read each line out loud while reading what I’d written and listening to what I’d recorded. I could learn the entire play in a single night. And I knew everyone’s lines, not just mine.
In college I would take copious notes during class in a valiant effort to stay awake in a warm, dark lecture hall and then barely refer back to those notes. Writing down the information is what helped it stick.
One of my New Years resolutions this year was to read a physical book before going to bed instead of staring at my glowing rectangle. It’s amazing how much better my brain feels before drifting off to sleep. My brain feels so good that little ideas sprout up before I am fully asleep, thoughts about sentences and story structure. And despite years of evidence that the best way for me to remember something is to write it down, I manage to avoid doing that.
Last night I thought of a way to frame an essay, a way to get the story from history to present and it seemed like a great idea, an epiphany. I thought about grabbing my iPad and typing myself a little note, but I was cozy under the covers, and besides, this was a good idea, I would remember it.
I woke up this morning and gradually remembered the feeling of having an idea and had no recollection of what it was. I closed my eyes and took a breath and tried to will it back to the front of my brain. White. That’s all I saw. A blank page. I picked up the book I was reading before I turned off the light to see if something there had inspired the thought, but nothing came back. I stayed in bed for a while, staring at the still ceiling fan, wondering why it takes so long for me to learn a lesson.
Eventually I decided it was gone, and I needed to move on with my life and so I put the kettle on and poured a bowl of cereal and it hit me suddenly. It had to do with benign neglect and my mother’s rule about coming downstairs if you were sick because we kids would always try the thermometer on the lightbulb scam and getting pneumonia and being allergic to the medicine that’s supposed to make you better and mistrust and those edible, white chalky candy sticks that come in a package of Fun Dip and how they tasted like the medicine I was allergic to.
I wrote it all down in a weird stream of consciousness. This morning the idea does not seem nearly as good as I remember it being last night, but it’s a start. Somehow I remembered. Did I learn my lesson this time? Will I keep a notebook with me wherever I go? I have doubts, but I’m hopeful.