Forgetting Names Messes Up Seeing Old Friends

I hate when I can’t immediately remember a name of a past acquaintance. She wasn’t the produce manager at the grocery store, or the twentieth person I met at a company picnic last month. She was a woman who had been an original member of my book club for two years before dropping out. I hate not remembering names and wish it was as easy to fix as looking in a mirror before leaving the house to make sure the appearance isn’t frightening.

Sam and I had time on a Saturday afternoon and a free craft fair was being held downtown, so we decided to wander through it. We were curious about locally made products and we appreciate artists of all types. So we went to town.

There were some great artists. Most of them were young which made their art fun and often unconventional. It wasn’t the usual craft show of homemade soaps and kit-assembled earrings. A good crowd walked back and forth, but not so many that it was difficult to see the displays or enjoy the walk.

Three booths from the end I looked over to see an old book club pal and her husband selling from a booth. I instantly recognized them, but brain freeze set in and I couldn’t think of the names. I hoped the milling people had blocked them from seeing us as I slinked to the next booth, and motioned Sam over to ask if he remembered the names. He remembered the husband’s and their last name.

I was no longer thinking about crafts or enjoying the afternoon. I was searching name databanks. I remembered where they live, they have two daughters, how they make a living, where she grew up, how great she looked in a white shirt, the sound of her voice and that she also wanted to write. But her first name was lost. Would walking over and saying, “Well, hello, Ms (insert last name),” sound ridiculous?

We walked back, and I veered over to say hi. The husband was watching us and I motioned Sam to follow. She was talking to potential buyers, saw me and greeted me with an “Oh, hi,” that had purple undertones of, “Now, what could we ever talk about?” Immediately, I leaned back into faded memories about why she left book club. Did it have anything to do with me? I don’t think so, but I know the hearts of women are very treacherous on female/female issues and I was never clear on why she left. The smiling husband offered his hand and we chatted. I offered an, I hope, friendly appreciative line about the jewelry for sale for all to hear as I held a necklace. The conversation with the potential customers continued, the husband, Sam and I ran out of conversation, and we slipped away. “Junie. Her name is Junie,” I said and Sam shrugged his shoulders.

It wasn’t only the obvious social faux pas of forgetting a name that I hated about this. Forgetting the name rendered me unable to express spontaneous real pleasure in seeing a person who I enjoyed and learned from. She is a vibrant person and I remember her as one who had interesting things to say about the books. In the hierarchy of Important Things in Life this is in the lower doldrums, but if too many of the lower reaches don’t work well the top ones tumble in confusion.


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