Saturday, July 31, 2010

I’m glad I wrote my memoir before I lost my memory

I did everything in the right order. I fell in love, bought a house, got married and then wrote my memoir sitting on the couch in a grey acrylic bathrobe. Despite the attire, I got pregnant, remodeled the kitchen, had a baby. And then I duly lost my memory.

It happens to all new moms, they say. Sleep deprivation is primarily to blame. I’d tell you everything I learned about sleep and the brain from a National Geographic article I recently read, if I could only remember it.

I used to be one of those people who could remember most everything (barring numbers and dates). My husband would say, holding up a conjoined pair of wood elves, “Who is this wedding gift from again?” and I would reply, “Honey, don’t you remember? Why, it’s from Anne and Cato. They brought it over from their hometown of Bjørnemyr in Norway. And remember how when we first took it home, both the bride elf and the groom elf got decapitated in that bizarre accident with the Le Creuset pot? ’Member, ’member?”

How thoroughly annoying. Now with my appalling memory, both long-term and short-term, I’ve become monstrously similar to our dear friend Massimo who has been known to wander around the house with freshly-laundered briefs slung over his shoulder, shouting, “Where are my underwears?”

The interesting thing is how little I panic about this possible long-term damage to my cortex. Yes, I forget friends’ birthdays and the name of that guy who starred in Saturday Night Fever. So what? I’ve already written my memoir. And in such detail! I recalled word-for-word conversations, the woody smell of Felce Azzurra shower gel, the bittersweet taste of roasted chestnuts, the disarming sensation of the bed throwing itself against the wall in the earthquake....Now, three years later, sometimes I read a chapter of my own book and I’m literally on the edge of my seat wondering what in the world is going to happen next.

What is memory? An Italian acquaintance of mine has described hers as a hole through which flows a gentle breeze. Yes, memory loss can be quite refreshing. Tabula rasa. The permission to have blonde moments. However, rather than as a hole, I like to think of my memory as a kind of waffle, with holes here and there. A strangely selective memory loss. I received indisputable proof of this today while my husband and I were bathing our two-year-old in the tub.

“Hey, where did this cute little boat come from?” he asked.

Miracle of miracles, I remembered. “Oh, yes, that’s from Fiji. It was given to me by Ferdinando…no, Fernando! That old Spanish friend of mine.”

“You mean the one who sent us a picture of himself surfing naked?”


The nice thing about having memory like a waffle is that you can fill in the holes with maple syrup.

Still, I choose to fight the battle by keeping a journal and making mental grocery lists, hoping that it will all come back to me one day. But what if I am defeated and my memory never fully regains its magical powers? Then I won’t be able to write another book about my life. And then, and only then, will I finally give in, make it all up and call it fiction.