Friday, July 10, 2009


Luis and I talked about it, in my work-issued convertible BMW, both 27, driving to the airport with the top down so he could fly to Cuba and cover a story for CNN. 

The discussion was that there should be in English, and probably is in German, a word for being jealous of yourself.  For looking at your perfect Now and realizing that it will be a memory one day, and you will be nostalgic for this moment. 


Seabass is part of a four-week study for the Memory Institute at Emory. They are studying how children develop autobiographical memories, and he is part of their research.

They gave Bass four disposable cameras, and with each he takes 3-5 pictures a day.  He mails one off at the end of each week and then opens the next.  At the end of the four weeks, the researchers do some memory exercises using the pictures he took.

I was explaining the study to my friend Brad (my friend-of-gasp-28-years friend Brad - a thing to tax the memory in itself), and we got talking about how memory works, and how he read another Emory study that posited that you cannot trust it. And I believe this.  

I don't know if it helps or hurts to have a constant narrative in your head, the voiceover I have that watches stuff and writes down notes - that laughs at things quietly in the very way back of my head far before they are funny in any socially acceptable way.  

Brad drove 14 hours to get to us.  And after dinner, and rest, had spent a day with us, our 3 kids, and their two cousins, in DC.  We were talking at the end of that day.

The next morning, I was running past fields and thinking about kid summers, and my kids’ summers.  Running for work, running for play.  Being a kid, being grown. How cornfields were featured in my past, and how I love to run past them now.  About memories forming – this second.  That this second?  Is gone.

I am aware of my selective memory, that events I recall with clarity may not have happened the way I remember at all – that dreams and intentions reshape personal histories. 

And I was thinking, as I ran, about the day that had just past.  About the work of the day, and about how a visit to a museum with five children under nine is a very different thing – for a humanities scholar that has been to many museums (which is what Brad is)- than touring those museums with a chance to really read the placards, take in the displays. 

In my reflection of the day, that one day, that very recent history, it had been pure chaos.  Children complained and children had to be contained, tracked, and hemmed in.  One child attempted to throttle his sister, another actually bit and removed a chunk out of his t-shirt in a rage and a third exhibited newly developed talents– along with an ability to turn tidy repeated cartwheels and backbends, a brand new insistent whine that could peel paint 

The cousins we feared (because their parents were elsewhere) were quiet, mature, polite, and at times, befuddled – and as we corralled and corrected the others, we felt watched and wondered how we were doing in the assessment.  

It was an hour drive into the city, and computer games bleeped and blipped on the way.  When we arrived, it was a rare 73 degrees.  Dylan ate his whole hamburger. We had our extra adult along to defend and protect our Littles. They all rubbed “chalk” (dirt, dust) on their limbs and ran around the Mall.  No one was lost, or hurt, and we all saw Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.

I don’t yet know what will be memorable about that day, now only two days past. But it likely won’t be the bickering

Eight people, one day.  Each will remember pieces and parts differently, some may forget it altogether. 

It was a good day, in a good week, in a good summer.  It is a good year, and a good life.  And as I ran, and memories were invisibly formed, I thought how lucky we all are.  To be in this place, with this back drop, making these yesterdays – right now.  And if I were German?  I might even have the word for this.


  1. Not sure of the word, but feel privileged to be reading this.

  2. The Aforementioned LuisJuly 17, 2009 at 11:31 PM

    Borges called one of his poems, "Nostalgia for the Present." My flawed translation is below.

    At that very moment the man told himself
    What I wouldn't give for the good fortune
    of being by your side in Iceland
    beneath the great, fixed sky
    sharing the moment
    the way one shares music
    or the bite of an apple.
    At that very moment
    the man was standing next to her in Iceland.

  3. Oh - I love this. We really should have gone to Iceland when we could.