HORIZONS-Family time triggers random memories

At the beginning of this summer, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be spending as much time with family as I knew I was going to be.

However, after I got over that totally cliché selfish teenage attitude, I started to actually enjoy myself and learn something.

Funny how that works.

You see, it’s amazing to me how a group of people can just hang out sharing memories for more than an hour every night-and pretty much all day long, too-and never run out of memories!

One of my favorite parts of these story-telling times was when, after my uncle or aunt was done telling a hilarious story from something years ago, my grandma would laugh and shake her head and jokingly say, “Those must have been my unconscious years, because I don’t remember any of that!”

Whether those memories were made up or somehow exaggerated is still unknown, but it got me thinking. How is it that at random times I’ll remember something from when I was little, but at least twice a week I lose my iPod?

And why can people remember certain things from a really long time ago?

Take my Uncle Craig, for example. He remembers being in the hospital when he was only 2 years old, and waking up over and over again to see his mother there next to him every time.

I, myself, am forever remembering particularly cute or funny things I’ve done, and, for some reason, my mom can’t remember any of it.

“Why is this?” I thought as I took a shower one night. “Why do two people remember the same thing so differently? Is my mom getting old? Are we all just liars, or is this just part of how memory works?”

I decided to put my “Magic School Bus” detective skills to the test, and found out some very interesting things.

First, I looked online and quickly found out why it is that I’ll remember things at totally random times. While our brains have an enormous capacity for storing information (some much more than others…), it’s just not possible to remember every little detail of all the events that have ever happened.

At certain moments when more information needs to be stored, some memories are “forgotten.”

Now, it’s pretty cloudy to doctors and researchers exactly how this next bit works, but once a memory is “forgotten,” it’s… actually not really forgotten.

(I know that doesn’t seem very logical, but since the people who provided this information are highly qualified doctors, they are automatically entitled to say things that don’t make sense to those of us who aren’t highly qualified doctors).

Anyway, these “forgotten” memories can be “remembered” at any time by different triggers. A song, a smell, or even a certain food are just a few examples from an endless list of triggers that can stimulate a memory.

One trigger for me is the smell of my daddy after he has showered for work in the morning. Every time I hug him goodbye, I think of our family vacation spot and my Grandaddy.

When I mentioned this to my dad, I found out that he wears the same aftershave that my grandpa used to wear, and I mostly remember being around Grandad at this family vacation place.

So, whenever I smell that aftershave-y smell, I think of my fuzzy grandpa and the fun times we had fishing and making wooden airplanes (and the whole time getting eaten alive by mosquitoes).

Then I got to thinking some more. While our minds are obviously capable of remembering things very accurately, maybe we’d rather “re-create” the memories to be more satisfying.

I know I’m guilty of polishing up one of my many stories to make it more interesting, or re-playing a certain moment over and over again in my head with the ending I’d prefer. Before long I seriously have to wonder which way it actually happened.

At the end of my summer, (after having a seriously bad attitude about not spending a lot of time with my friends) I ended up really enjoying the time I had getting to know my family more and hearing some funny stories.

Besides, ever since my article in May, I was trying to figure out what I was going to write about next. My family definitely provided some good material! Plus, my cousin’s dreadlocks are really cool.

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