Yesterday I posted on Facebook and I’ve gotten more responses than usual. The post was: When I got to the grocery store I found I’d left my shopping list at home. I remembered all 17 items! I’m so proud of myself.
Not show stopping, but it was telling that the responses all came from people in the grandparent demographic of my “friends.” Like me, I suspect whenever they don’t ace a trivia quiz or remember something they’re sure they used to, there is a momentary flutter of self-notification, “Keep tabs on me. Make sure not losing mind and all memory to petrifying brain. Do not panic.”
I know I make it worse than I need to. Sam and I often take the Isaac Isimov Super Quiz in the morning paper (a clue as to our age, huh?). I’ll read the question, we’ll both say an answer, or not, when neither can think of a thing. It takes two of us to manage this morning ritual. This morning the quiz was “Anyone for Seconds?” as in name the second largest country. Answer: Canada. Between the two of us we actually knew five, and guessed at four. Of the four, two we guessed correctly and two we were just plain wrong.
What does that say about me? I knew the name of Elizabeth Taylor’s second husband (Michael Wilding), but a correct guess was the second longest river in the world. Luckily, I knew the Amazon is mighty long. Really, it could have been first or fifth. What makes something stick in your head? Early learning? My mother was really into Elizabeth Taylor when I was a kid and I remember her sadness the day the paper had a picture of a wrecked small plane that had taken Wilding down. Out of elitist pride, I would have preferred “knowing” the Amazon and guessing at Wilding.
Years later I was around to know who was the second man on the moon, but I couldn’t remember anyone but John Glenn. Sam remembered the right man with Buzz Aldrin, who we both met years earlier at an event. By actual in-person observation I know he is a dynamic man. I should have remembered that. Aldrin was momentarily, with a real handshake, in my life, after all.
On quizzes like this I also think a sort of generalized memory plays in like it did with my grocery list. Question number seven asked who Henry the VIII’s second wife was. Henry’s wives had been part of my education several times so names like Anne and Catherine popped up. The easiest one to say was Anne Boleyn, helped by the movie with a poetic title I have always liked, “Anne of a Thousand Days.” The reason I remembered the grocery list is I had reviewed it several times because I was buying items for a specific dinner and I mentally went through the courses and dishes while I was shopping. It made it easier to remember the seventeen items. But still, I had left the list home. What does that say?