We drove into Portland this evening. Made one stop. To return Mom's purse. She forgot it yesterday.

Here, at our home, is where she forgot it.

I forgot where I put the charger for my camera.
I also forgot where my hot glue gun is.
I think I forgot to respond to some emails today too. I don't remember which ones.

Forgetting gets such a bad rap. Like it's always a negative thing. I am frustrated with myself right now over having a dead camera and a missing glue gun.

One of the reasons I am an obsessive listmaker and journalerist is that I don't trust my memory very much.

I think one of the things that makes me a decent person - specifically parent - is a recognition of memory's nebulous nature. I can't choose what memories people will have of me. I can't choose exactly what will be Johannes and Magdelana's formative memories. I can't pick those moments, those experiences where I was "a really good dad" and cram them into their long-term easy retrieval memory storage. It's impossible.

I cannot pick or control the memories other people have of me. It's like a corollary to:

Live your life like there's always a camera watching you.

Which in our case, there usually is.

There's an accountability that comes with knowing that any experience you have with your children, particularly early in their life, could be one of those memories their independent little brain plucks from obscurity and chooses to save as a personal highlight reel.

I hope, I hope so badly that someday when Magdelana is sitting a classroom corner and the question is asked,

What is your first memory?

that her answer will be a really great one.

Something having to do with making art, or humming along to Tom Waits in the automobile, or swimming in frigid Pacific waters...

And I desperately hope it is not the time I got mad at her for stacking LEGO blocks in my coffee, or when I yelled at her for waking up her just-fallen asleep baby brother.

Or even worse: when I have been working and responded to repeated requests to "come play with me Daddy," with absentminded,

Okay Magdelana...just a minute.

And a minute turns into five.

I believe in elevating the Mundane to the level of Spectacle. Every day, our ragtag bohemian foursome tries to rock heavy and sing loud. I have no idea what will be remembered and what will be forgotten in our children's minds over time, but as their parents we are gonna cheat bigtime and cram in all the play and dancing and artmaking and impromptu expeditions to city and forest that we can so that something just might stick in those noggins.

Who knows what they will latch onto, but by the whitebeard of Odin, let their memories be ones that are filled with love, joy, empathy, and Kimya Dawson melody lines.

Why did Abraham Lincoln write the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope? I like to think it was because he forgot his Moleskine notebook and was creatively repurposing what would have been a scrap of trash.

I am glad that our brains have a filtering mechanism that allows us to prioritize information and learn how to train our brains to have some degree of control over what we allow into the memory banks to begin with.

(Also, I am well aware of how I am indiscriminately referring to generic Memory without acknowledgment of different types (short-term, long-term, explicit, implicit, autobiographical, etc.)
Thank you for noticing.)

Eventually, that process of learning to filter and thus prioritize is what allows some people to become highly-effective decisionmakers.* Sherlock Holmes refused to allow many types of information into his consciousness**; he didn't want to clutter his head with extraneous information.

*Malcolm Gladwell talks about this part of the brain, the ventralmedial prefrontal cortex, in Blink. It's kind of the gateway to rapid decision making and good judgment skills. And Yes, I did remember that without looking it up. It was important to me to remember it :) Read his book. Monumentally interesting.

**Although he was highly hypocritical on this point, particularly later on in his fictional life...

Wish I didn't remember some information so unconsciously. A decade since I last heard it, why am I able to recite the lyrics for the Beastie Boys' Paul Revere (1986) verbatim without even thinking about it? How did those get lodged in my fast-retrieval storage in so permanent a fashion?

I am grateful for forgetting. I hope that the gift of forgetting is one that our children will be blessed with when it comes to those times when our actions or words don't live up to our ideal.

That said, I am sure grateful to Google Calendar. There is a freedom in being able to dump all your schedule worries and stresses into a piece of cloud software...

So we returned my Mom's purse. Still haven't found my battery charger or glue gun, and I still don't remember who I was supposed to call back today...

Our family trip to return the purse: Was it a trip we had planned on taking? No. But it became an Opportunity. An opportunity to cruise through Christmas-lit neighborhoods and start making our Best of 2010 music lists.

(All Smiles will certainly be on my list. As will Sufjan Stevens, School of Seven Bells, MGMT, and Jeremy M. Long. And uhh, some others I don't remember).

Better go to bed. I have something important in the morning,  I think.


  1. "I hope that the gift of forgetting is one that our children will be blessed with when it comes to those times when our actions or words don't live up to our ideal."

    Loved this post. Well put.

  2. Thanks Jenn!

    Hope you are having a delightful and memorable holiday season too.


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