MY REMEMBERER IS BROKE

Forgetter Be Forgotten?

My forgetters getting better,
But my rememberer is broke
To you that may seem funny
But, to me, that is no joke

For when I’m ‘here’ I’m wondering
If I really should be ‘there’
And, when I try to think it through,
I haven’t got a prayer!

Oft times I walk into a room,
Say ‘what am I here for? ‘
I wrack my brain, but all in vain!
A zero, is my score.

At times I put something away
Where it is safe, but, Gee!
The person it is safest from
Is, generally, me!

When shopping I may see someone,
Say ‘Hi’ and have a chat,
Then, when the person walks away
I ask myself, ‘who the hell was that?

Yes, my forgetters getting better
While my rememberer is broke,
And it’s driving me plumb crazy
And that’s really not a joke.

Jim 1999
James Casey

How come what I remember of the past bears almost no resemblance to the memories of the people I knew while I was growing up? I get notes from people with whom I went to school. High school — even elementary school. I’d swear they went to different schools than I did.

They have wonderful memories of our relationships while I remember them as brats who gave me the cold shoulder. Wouldn’t even talk to me because I wasn’t one of the “cool kids.” I recall them as petty tyrants and bullies, but they swear we were the best of friends. Which is interesting since I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even invited to their parties. Or ever visited them at their homes.

Is it me? Is my memory damaged?

I grew up in the 1950s. I get a dozen emails a week extolling that decade as “the best of the good old days.” I do not remember the 1950s as a better time. Just a different one.

Racism was rampant. Sexism and ageism weren’t even part of our vocabulary. Women and old people were treated horribly and it was just fine because that was the way it was and no one was trying to fix it. They didn’t see it as broken.

It was not a simpler time either. Sure, we had less technology, but we were constantly embroiled in trying to get whatever it was we had to do the job for which it was intended. Our refrigerators were layered in ice, our ovens couldn’t maintain a constant temperature. Our televisions barely registered a signal, even if we were lucky enough to have an antenna on the roof. And people were so happy, they were building bomb shelters in their yards so when someone nuked us, they could survive. Clearly better days.

GoodOldDays

To my mind, the social issues were no less complex than now. And we were busily polluting our environment. Enthusiastically polluting our environment, I should say. We are still cleaning up the mess we made in those good old days.

Life was not easy. Assuming you had a decent job, your pay probably allowed you to live reasonably well, but a lot of people — anyone of color, for example — was lucky to get a job at all, much less one on which a family could be supported.

Nor was childhood all sunlight and roses. Abuse was common and by a kind of silent, cultural consent, never spoken of. No laws protected us. No agencies would aid us.

A few years ago, Garry went to his 50th high school reunion. He came back shaking his head, wondering what school they went to. It obviously wasn’t the same one he attended. I chose to avoid my high school reunion a couple of years back. I kept getting notes from former classmates about the great years we enjoyed at Jamaica High School.

I don’t have those memories. I remember a racially divided school with bigoted teachers, bullying classmates. Cliques of privileged kids who ostracized anyone who was different. Sad teenagers lost between childhood and a frightening, uncertain future. Hoping for help from counselors who denied the existence of the problems many of us faced at home.

Is it me? Am I the one who is broken?

Salad Days — Is there a period in your own personal life that you think of as the good old days? Tell us a story about those innocent and/or exciting times (or lack thereof).

Note: If WordPress is going to keep repeating the same prompts and themes, I’m going to rework my material. Good for the goose, good for the gander. Or something like that.


All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle. Life’s but a poor player who frets and struts his hour about the stage and then is heard no more.

It is a tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

William Shakespeare, “King Lear”

And here we fools are  … again … reliving for WordPress some aspect of the past. Taking another dive into the treacly waters of remembrance of times past. The wonderful days when life was simple, warm, and fuzzy.

Those halcyon days of yore, before women and minorities got strange idea about rights and dignity. Before inferior people thought they were as good as white men.

Yesterday, when it was okay to beat up your kids, your wife, your pets. You knew your neighbors wouldn’t say anything because no one wanted to interfere in a “family matter.” The good old days of back room abortions with wire hangers, nuns with rulers, fathers with straps. The days when bullies could be kings of the world and the rest of us had to cringe our way through school hoping to get out alive.

72-Farm_06

When husbands could rape their wives and it was okay because a marriage licence conferred immunity to prosecution for everything short of murder … and even murder in some states.

The good old days, when you could refuse employment to people because they were the wrong sex or color. When jobs were listed by sex in the press and if you had the wrong plumbing, you couldn’t get an interview.

Those were great times, were they not?

I’m exhausted by all these trips down memory’s lanes. The good old days had some good stuff in them. The world was smaller. We had fewer predators or were blissfully unaware of the ones lurking around every corner. We played outside in good weather, without supervision. Our world wasn’t ruled by technology, or at least not personal devices. No cells phones or beepers to leash us to home. Out of sight meant freedom.

Mom was boss. Watch out for her dish towel! It could get you in any room in the house because mom could not only hear your whispers, but your thoughts, too.

Salad days? Not really. I had healthier days, younger days. 1969, the year my son was born was a good one. Because my son was born, men walked on the moon, everyone went to Woodstock (except me because I was home with the baby) and rock and roll was king.

But not salad days. Just younger.

The Yarn Shoppe in Williamsburg, August 2012.

There’s a lot wrong with today, but there was just as much wrong”back then.” We may not have noticed it, but it was there if you had eyes to see and ears to hear. So lets put our efforts into making today better.

We can’t redo the past and I don’t want to live there or even visit. We have today. We have “now.” Let’s do the best we can to make today worth remembering … even if we aren’t the ones who will remember it.

SALAD DAYS, SALAD BARS

Those halcyon days of yore or whatever

Now that my high school reunion has passed and I’m no longer besieged by nostalgia from a half century ago, I feel safe in saying it. I haven’t any idea in what world my classmates were living, but I’m sure it wasn’t the same one I inhabited.

I understand that time can cast a gentler light, a rosy glow over events that took place in one’s youth … but there’s a difference between a rosy glow and a full revision.

For months, I have been bombarded by email from people with whom I attended high school. They are sure they remember me. They recall the fun stuff we did together. After giving it careful consideration, I have concluded they are deranged, on drugs, or senile. Whatever it is they think they remember, it didn’t happen.

Who are these people? Why do they keep talking about relationships that never existed? These people were not my friends. I remember them. They didn’t like me. They either ignored me, made fun of me, or conscientiously ostracized me. I belonged to no cliques, no fun groups. I wasn’t invited to parties. I was not popular.

I had a few friends, but these people who are so happily remembering me? They weren’t among the few people I counted as friends.

Did someone — me or them — slip through a wormhole into an alternate reality? That must be it.

High school was not a good time for me. Neither was junior high school or elementary school, for that matter. Even amongst the unpopular kids, I was unpopular. By the time I had survived junior high, I’d learned how to be invisible. Attending a really huge school helped. It was so big and over-crowded if you kept your head down, no one would notice you.

I was a klutzy kid with no athletic prowess, I avoided the humiliation of the athletically challenged by claiming I didn’t know how to swim. Every semester, I showed up at swimming class.

“You again?” said the coach. “Just keep out-of-the-way,” It was a win-win for me. I got an hour a day of private swim time alone in the deep end of the pool and completely avoided gym class. I believe I was technically on the swim team, but I never actually swam in an event. I was a bench warmer. That was fine. I liked the water, but I wasn’t going to win any medals.

All I had to do was get acceptable grades, not fail math courses after which I could go to college. I heard from other survivors that in college I might meet people who I’d like and might like me. That sounded too good to be true, but I had it on good authority. It turned out to be true so I guess making it through high school alive was worth it.

This was not the first time I’ve had to fend off a reunion. I dodged the 10th, 15th, 20th and 25th. I think there was a 40th too. But like a bad penny, it keeps coming back to haunt me. On the up side, we are now all so old, there is very little likelihood of any more such grand events.

I have repeatedly gone over this in my mind. I know with absolute certainty that high school wasn’t a fun time. It wasn’t only not fun for me. It wasn’t fun for most of us. We were young, hormonal, lost, unsure where we were going or how we would get there. Everyone felt ugly or deformed. Many of us had dreadful home lives that we hid from everyone else.

Yet now those years have become one long golden memory. At the reunion I did not attend, they actually got together to sing the school song. Never once in the years I attended did we ever actually sing the school song. It was a joke. We used to make fun of it because it was so dumb. Now, it’s a warm fuzzy memory. Bizarre.

My husband says this is typical of reunions. He says that when he went to his reunion — he actually attended one — people were reminiscing about the great times they had together, none of which he could remember nor could he recall the people claiming to have been there with him.

He says people need to pretend that they had a great time. It makes them feel better.

Not me. Even after fifty years I can’t think of a single reason to revisit a time and place I would just as soon have skipped in the first place. Oh, and to put this in perspective, our high school prom was cancelled due to no one but me and my date signing up for it. So exactly how terrific was the experience really?

Does pretending the past was perfect when it wasn’t even close make you feel better about your life? It doesn’t work for me. But maybe I’m the one with a problem. What do you think?

And now, a word from our sponsor:

It’s that damned wormhole again …

2013 is the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. That’s five zero. Half a century.

After so many years, one might suppose my memories would be fuzzy enough that I could delude myself into believing I had fun in those opening years of the 1960s.

This has come up because a few of the people with whom I apparently attended high school want to have a reunion. Not the entire graduating class of more than 1200 people. This is a smaller sub-group of people who claim to actually know me and want to see me again. They say they remember me and all the neat stuff we did together.

I think they are deranged. Whatever they think they remember, as far as I can tell, didn’t happen. I do not want to go to the party.  I said no when I was contacted by phone, but they keep sending me invitations by email … endless variations of the same thing. Lists of names I don’t recognize. I know I’m not young, but I’m not senile either. Who ARE these people?

I am considering the possibility I slipped through a wormhole and am in an alternate reality, which would explain how come they know me, but I don’t know them. Yeah, that’s probably it.

I was not a popular high school student. Even amongst the unpopular students, I was unpopular. Fortunately, by the time I had survived junior high, now known as “middle school” but back in those good old days, referred to simply as Hell, I had learned to be invisible. Attending a really huge school helped. It was so big and crowded, you could slither through all three years (10th, 11th and 12th grades) and if you kept your head down, no one would know your name. I only got attacked by junior thuglets once (not bad considering what an oddball I was) and participated in group activities only if dragged screaming and kicking, usually because someone needed an accompanist and I played the piano.

A klutzy young thing, I avoided the traditional humiliation of the athletically challenged by claiming I didn’t know how to swim. When I showed up, the swimming coach would say “You again? Just keep out-of-the-way,” and thus I got an hour a day of private swim time alone in the deep end of our Olympic-sized pool. I think I was on the swimming team, but I didn’t actually ever swim in an event. I was a bench sitter. And, apparently, the only girl in high school who didn’t care if my hair got wet.

So all I had to do was get decent grades, try not fail my math courses, and then I could go to college where I heard I might actually meet people who I’d like and might like me too. It turned out to be true, so surviving high school was probably worth it. But now, like a malevolent spirit,  fellow graduates of Jamaica High School want me to come to their party. They even think I should pay for the privilege.

If I could remember any of them, I might consider it. No, that’s a lie. You’d have to drug me then drag my unconscious carcass there before I regained consciousness.

High school wasn’t a fun time. Not for me. Fifty years later I can’t think of a single reason to revisit an experience I would as soon have skipped in the first place.

And now, a word from our sponsor: