I Must Remember This

Is there a term for the inability to remember any details of a precise recent memory of a long-buried recollection? Yesterday, and again today, on two separate occasions, two different flashes of memory from my childhood popped into my head. Both occurrences involved events or emotions I feel quite certain I had not thought about in fifty or sixty years; maybe more. And both were crystal clear for several seconds. Yet, almost as soon as I recognized them as real—legitimate snapshots of fleeting moments in my life—they were gone, leaving only a deep imprint in my brain of the absence of a clear memory. I know only that those memories were real; but I do not know what they were about. I do know, though, they did not involve life-changing events; they simply cataloged moments of experience. They were neither especially relevant nor particularly irrelevant. The experiences were like sorting through a huge box of old photos and seeing a couple of pictures that expressed the mundane reality of an unimportant activity; like a photo of a child sitting on a swing set or standing proudly next to a misshapen sand castle on a stretch of empty beach.

Even though I am confident the two images that flashed through my mind were, indeed, mundane and not otherwise meaningful, I think they expressed to me something profound about my early life. And maybe, if only I could remember them, they would help explain who I am today. Those two concepts are at odds with one another; I know that. How could a fleeting memory of a meaningless experience have such a potentially profound impact on one’s personality and/or the way one’s life has played out over five or six decades?

How, indeed. Maybe I’m making far more of what may be only a misfiring synapse than it deserves. Maybe that’s all those memories were; misdirected nerve impulses that ricochet off of artificial memories. Artificial memories do exist; I’ve had more than my share of them. I remember events that never happened—could never have happened. These memories are similar in many respects to déjà vu. According to an article in Scientific American, déjà vu might be explained like this:  “We encounter a situation that is similar to an actual memory but we can’t fully recall that memory. So our brain recognizes the similarities between our current experience and one in the past. We’re left with a feeling of familiarity that we can’t quite place.” Perhaps that sort of error in memory processing can explain my two strange “memories” from my childhood. Or, perhaps not.


I spent four and a half hours with my wife yesterday, helping her eat some “thickened” chicken broth and some vanilla-flavored Greek yoghurt. The pureed chicken breast and whipped potatoes she asked me to order went untouched. In fact, she claimed she did not ask me to order them; but when, after the order-taker on the other end of the telephone asked me whether my wife wanted gravy, my wife responded to me that she did. I hope a more appealing meal appeared after I departed. I thought I had to leave by 3:30 in order to get to return a “wedge” (used to help position bedridden people to avoid bed sores)  to the Village Health Mart; as it turned out, the wedge had to go to the pharmacy, not the medical supplies store. Long, convoluted, uninteresting story. At least I got it returned and, if all goes according to plan, will see a $46 credit on the credit card I used for the purchase. (I bought two; only needed on…a smaller one, at that.)


Despite promising myself I would make congee today, I did not. Instead, I made a chicken and rice dish last night, using the Instant-Pot. I ate more chicken and more rice last night than I should eat in three days; apparently, I was ravenously hungry. I have had only coffee this morning. That probably will suffice; I’m still digesting from last night’s glutton-fest. I ate while I watched another episode of Deadwind. I’m beginning to understand a few words in Finnish. Give me another season or two and I may be able to successfully converse with the locals after I move to Helsinki. I think I might enjoy a job as a Finnish homicide detective. This assumes, of course, the television series portrays (like American television) absolutely realistic experiences.


I took a pause from writing to shower and shave, take the trash to the street, and drive to the post office to pick up several pieces of mail. Most of the mail was marketing materials of no interest to me. When I got back to the house, my sister-in-law came by to borrow nutcrackers and to have a cup of coffee. Her coffee maker died. Until a replacement arrives later this week, she will rely on me for a cup each morning. She says the replacement is orange (she could have chosen teal or one of a couple of other colors). The one she bought has no water reservoir; it produces a single serving based on the amount of water one pours into the machine. And that exhausts my knowledge of her replacement coffee maker, soon to arrive.


If the universe is properly aligned today, I will get a haircut before the day is out. First, I will go to the hospital to visit my wife and will take the magazines, etc. I promised to take yesterday, but left on the kitchen island, instead. When I returned home yesterday, I put them on the passenger seat; I wish I could set a reminder to myself to pick them up and take them inside once I arrive at the hospital. I do not trust myself to think clearly enough to ensure I take them inside. Whether I get a haircut today or not does not matter a great deal. I can live with my shaggy, unkempt look for a while longer. If my hair becomes sufficiently annoying, I am capable of using scissors to remove the offending strands, stopping them from dangling in my eyes and tickling my forehead.


The sky is brilliant blue this morning and the temperature is just a tad over fifty degrees. A long sleeve shirt, sleeves rolled up a bit, over a t-shirt is adequate to keep me comfortable.  It’s almost a quarter after nine, five hours into the day. I should have accomplished more thus far this morning. But what do I really need to do? The house needs cleaning. That will wait, though. It will still be here—ready for vacuums and mops and other implements of housekeeping—when I return. Whether my mood will support the need to do housekeeping remains to be seen.  Off to face the day.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to I Must Remember This

  1. Meg, if I can get by with English, I’ll be fine. If I have to depend on my Swedish, I’ll starve. 😉

  2. Meg Koziar says:

    John, Hope you have more good news today. A note about Finnish. When I went to Denmark, it was part of a group of a few more than 100 Americans who went to study in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, or Finland. They sent students to Finland only if they already knew the language, as it is a very difficult one to learn. Finnish is not a Scandinavian language but more closely related to Estonian and Hungarian. Swedish is spoken in some areas and is an official language and many Finns also know English, You could probably get along just fine with either. I’m sure you”d make a stellar detective.

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