Great novels start with lines like, Call me Ishmael. Mediocre blogs start with lines like…
Call me Sophia Petrillo. When I tell a story, I like to set it up Sophia-style. “Picture it…a pay toilet in Boleslawiec, Poland, 2001.” Or, “Picture it…the breakdown lane of I-70 in Richmond, Indiana, 2014.” Or, “Picture it…the Yakov Smirnoff Comedy Club in Branson, Missouri, 1999.” For the last 20 years, my memory has been structured geographically. When I need to figure out when something happened, I determine where we lived at the time, and then I determine if the event happened early on, in the middle of, or late in our stay….calculations, tabulations, carry the one, and voila!…the year of the memory!
Give me an event from the last two decades…the Japanese tsunami? I know that happened on March 12, 2011, for two reasons…it happened on my brother-in-law’s birthday and it happened right after we moved to Junction City, KS (arrival date: 12/31/2010, so that puts that year as 2011). When did Michael Jackson die? I watched the news of that event in our Fort Leavenworth, KS, living room, and we lived in that house from November 2008 until Dec 2009. It was warm out, so that means Michael Jackson died in summer 2009. Columbine? I was glued to the news from our living room in Jacksonville, AL. It was spring and the only spring we lived there was 1999, so Columbine happened in April 1999. When my brother from Florida came to visit? That’d be October 2007, which I remember because it was at the West Point, NY, house (where we lived from July 2007 until November 2008), and it was the first time I needed to turn the heat on (the heat, of course, didn’t work and my Floridian brother’s family nearly froze to death as the temperature inside dropped to a brisk 54 degrees). I can remember when babies were born, when people we knew passed on, when friends got divorced or married, all based on the memory of the house in which I heard the news.
In general, my memory is not the best. What happened yesterday? Ummm….not sure. Whether it’s short-term or long-term memory, I have a fairly serious case of CRS (while likely not found in any medical literature, Can’t Remember Shit affects a LOT of people, though I forget how many exactly). Some people might brag that their mind is like a steel trap, but I think of my mind as more of a colander…a porous device with many holes through which information constantly escapes in a steady flow. On the positive note, I keep finding my way home every day, so that’s the good news.
Currently, my brain is in a stage of complete and total Information Overload, at about 125 percent capacity. If my mind were a school, someone would be positioning portables in the parking lot to hold the overflow. On a good day, I have a lot going on. Right now, as we are attempting to transition from Army life to the “normal people” life I never quite believed we’d ever reach, we are neck-deep in extra stuff to think about, worry about, and remember to do. I’m thinking about and trying to remember the myriad of things we need to do in our current house, in our next house, for the kids, for us. I also feel like I should be Christmas shopping already, since things are going to get really busy really soon and stay that way for several months. But one of the most random things I’m thinking and worrying about is how I’m going to remember stuff once we’re settled, living that “normal people” life I’ve only imagined.
How, exactly, will I remember when things happen when we live in the same place for a long time? How will I remember when stuff happens when our living room will always have the furniture arranged the same way? Will one year look like another year and another? How will I know when *random kid* had their wisdom teeth removed? How will I know when *whoever* broke their tibia? How will I know when we put new tires on the car? When your life is Settled and Stable, how do you know when anything happened? Or, when your life is Settled and Stable, is it easier to keep track of things? Or, is the concept of Settled and Stable a myth, in the same family as the chupacabra and Siblings Who Get Along?
After contemplating this for the last 770 words, I’ve decided that, in the grand scheme of things, the important part of life is having made memories, and the memory’s place in time is only the concern of those suffering from type-A tendencies (guilty). It probably doesn’t matter when things happen; it’s more important to be living life in a way that things are actually happening. And the past 20 years have been pretty full of happenings, for better or worse, as Mike has undertaken a career of service to our nation, and the kids and I have hung on for dear life during the ride. As this chapter in our lives comes to a close, I am grateful for the many places and friends and adventures and memories made along the way, and I look forward to and am hopeful for a future full of more memories. Even if I can never place them in time, as we embark on this new Stable and Settled life.