Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Memory, Not Just A Matching Game For Kids

I was thinking about the human memory earlier today, and how strange it is that we remember some things really vividly while other things slip our minds completely. I'm not sure what it is that causes our brains to say "Hey, keep this info for later" but I have discovered throughout my life that I have a wealth of pretty useless knowledge floating around in my head. I mean, think about it, what do you remember now from when you were a kid? What do you remember from a year or two ago? And isn't it weird how the strangest things can cause us to remember something? I know that in the summer, if the humidity and weather are just right there's this smell in the air and it always makes me think of when I worked late nights at the Frosty Boy when I was in high school. Or when my windows fog up on my car really early in the morning during spring and the wipers can't seem to keep up with the fog, I always remember a trip we took to Florida where the salt in the air made the windshield impossible to keep clear even with wiper fluid. I see a beat up old Ford Aerostar and I think about the trip we took to NYC the summer after I graduated high school in my dad's old Aerostar which we dubbed "The Ghetto Van".

I mean, if you think about it for long enough, I'm sure there are things you can remember but have no idea why your brain is holding onto this knowledge. Examples I have from the top (or middle, or whatever that memory part of your brain is located) of my head:
  • My grandma's phone number is 434-0268. She hasn't had that phone number since she moved in with my parents when I was 9. And now, well, she doesn't have a phone because phonecalls from beyond the grave are creepy.
  • The paint colors in my house that I can remember are as follows: Living room is Sauteed Mushroom, Red in the library and kitchen is Brick Dust, Beige in the kitchen is Camel, Laundry room is Golden Fleece, bedroom is Persian Blue, basement hallways are Belgian Waffle, basement family room is Weeping Willow. Why the heck do I remember this crap?!
  • My telephone number in the apartment was 528-2052, dial down the center.
  • My brother was born on a Sunday.
  • The chemical equasion for sulfuric acid is H2SO4.
  • When I was 3, my sister was crying in her crib and my parents were outside. I didn't want to bother them so I climbed into her crib and took her bottle out, then filled it with Coke and my mom came in while I was trying to climb back into the crib to give it to her. When she asked why I was giving my sister Coke I responded with "Well, I like it".
  • My first term paper, written when I was in the 7th grade was about the Phillipines. I got an A on it.

That's just a few things. But seriously, we remember a lot of stuff! And don't even get me started on how I can usually come up with the majority of the lyrics to a song I haven't heard since I was 7 years old, or how I can come up with movie lines like it's my job. I'm sure there are people who have done extensive studies on what we remember and how we remember it and all of that good stuff, so I'm sure people understand how all of this works, but I'm not marveling so much at how it works as I am at how much our brains seem to be able to hold, and how long they are able to hold that stuff. Of course, don't ask me what I was doing last Monday at 6:45, because I have no freaking clue. I don't remember.

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