Memory Savant

Posted by: on Nov 23, 2016 | No Comments

Memory Savant

Have I ever told you about my crazy long-term memory? Well I got one. I often remember things about people that they don’t remember about themselves. As I’m fond of saying, “If I tell you something about yourself, chances are it’s true.” Don’t believe me? Just ask the roomies from SU…they will back me up.

Now I don’t have “hyperthymesia” (Superior Autobiographical Memory), like the actress Marilu Henner, but I got something. The funny thing is, my short term memory sucks. Another thing I’m fond of saying is “Whatever I did to myself in college, killed one set of brain cells and left the others unscathed.”

So why am I bringing this up? Probably because of a dream I had the other day. In this dream, I’m back at Baker Hill Elementary School in Great Neck, the school that I went to from kindergarten through 6th grade. I’m giving a tour of the school to some folks and I’m introducing them to all my old teachers. I remember all their names (Flatoe, Van Doren, Cook, Harvey, Aufferman, Johnston, Coleman). Not only do I remember the names of all my classroom teachers, I remember the names of all the specialty teachers. Coach Moss for gym (that’s easy as I still speak to him), Mr. Viskupic for shop, Mrs. Snow for art, Mr. Howard for music. I can picture the librarian but can’t remember her name…which makes me crazy. The principals name was George Allan Smith but we just called him GAS, which we thought was so funny.

There’s a woman in my dream who looked so familiar but I can’t figure out who it is. That is until she starts sucking on her finger and I realize it’s LF, who in 4th grade was always sucking on her finger and had a huge overbite because of it. One day they put some sort of contraption in the roof of her mouth, which forced her to stop sucking her finger. And I have no idea why I remember this but trust me, it’s true.

I have memories going back to when I was 3 years old, riding my tricycle down my driveway at the house I grew up in, with my friend BC (FYI – I’m going to use initials to identify folks). 4 years old, meeting my neighbors, SL – boy my age, and his 2 year old sister, ML, who was in a stroller and called me “I-E.” The day Coach Moss (who also owned Camp Lenox) came to my house with his slide projector to show me his camp, where I went for 7 years, and where my kids would also go (What? You thought it was just a Syracuse thing?). So many memories.

I never know what’s going to trigger those memories but when it happens…look out. A few months ago, I had brunch with some folks I went to high school with. One of those, I also went to Baker Hill with. In 6th grade, we performed The Music Man and I played the lead role, Harold Hill, and DG was one of the mayor’s wife’s entourage – the “Pick A Little, Talk A Little” ladies. During brunch, I started come up with names that DG hadn’t heard in years. After it was over, I started thing about lots of names as well. EG and SD, who were also part of the wife’s lady friends. MP who handled the spotlight, and so much more. MR (who I chat with from time-to-time) who played the lisping Winthrop (made famous by Ron Howard in the movie version of the play), and who got an encore for his performance of “Gary Indiana.” Does he remember getting an encore? I wonder if I were to speak to all these people if they would remember things about themselves that I remember about them? Just as interesting, I wonder if they are at all curious as to why I remember such things. I think it’s a gift but for some, their memories are a curse.