Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Someone full of wisdom recently told me about a journal called "642 Things to Write." Basically, each page has a prompt for a writing assignment. Since I'm frequently staring at a blank page desperately seeking inspiration, this item seemed like a must buy. Let's just hope it becomes something I actually use because, alas, I'm quite good at finding things that seem like they are going to be wildly useful and then never touching them again (as evidenced by my closet full of clothes with tags still on and shelves full of self-help books I'll never get around to reading).

What sold me on this particular journal? Jessica Strawser wrote a review and listed her favorite entries (, and I could not stop thinking about this one: "You can keep only one memory from your entire life. What will it be?"

It's such a simple question, and yet, despite wracking my brain for days, incredibly hard to answer. Logically, it should be a memory that includes all people I have been closest to or an astonishingly major event: a graduation, an award, an exotic vacation, a marriage (if I had one of those, which, of course, I do not). The odd thing is that the big events in my life are a little fuzzy. I only remember the small pieces of them rather than the experiences in their entirety. They've blurred by at an alarming rate and my memories of those events are really based on what other people have told me rather than any true connection to them.

I have memories that define relationships in my mind, but each one is different depending on the person sharing the moment with me. I have long ago memories of my father teaching me how to drive in the mall parking lot on a very early Sunday morning. I have memories of taking my mother to Malibu and watching her delight as she stepped into the Pacific for the first time. I remember seeing a man across a crowded theater and knowing that my life would never be the same (for better or for worse). I remember getting locked in stairwells, sneaking into a Rosie taping, a Garth Brooks concert in Central Park and meeting David Tennant using stealth clearly learned from ninjas. There are wine clubs, Soviet nights and chipping at the wall efforts before going through Checkpoint Charlie. I've met people I've admired and every once in a while there has been adventure. Christmases, birthdays and family vacations are all stored, ready to be retrieved at any nostalgic call. How could I choose only one? And without the memories of those other experiences, who would I be?

If forced by gun-toting memory stealers, I suppose, against all odds, I would choose a quiet moment: my parents and I sitting around a table putting together a jigsaw puzzle, Christmas tree in the background, Perry Como on the radio—just the three of us talking about life and sharing memories of events past as the snow fell outside. It's not a moment in a vacuum—our shared and individual histories are always at play. "Do you remember the time…?" "I can't believe that llama spit on you!" "God, it was hot that day." Keeping that memory would, in essence, be keeping our history safe.

Your turn: "You can keep only one memory from your entire life. What will it be?"


Helen said...

It's funny you eventually picked Christmas, because that's where I went immediately. Any Christmas Eve between the ages of 14 and 17 will do. All of my Christmas memories are great, but during those years, I was old enough to shop for my nieces and nephews and they were still young enough for it to be fun (buying gift certificates when they are in high school/college is less fun). All of my family together. Tons of food, wine, laughter. My parents both still in good health. Perfect.

Carey Hagan said...

I can only choose one? Okay, so I spent some time thinking about this one, and my thinking closely approximated that of your average screwup in a Woody Allen movie. I'm overthinking too much. I do have happy memories, but it's too hard to choose _the one_. I'm passing on this one. There's just too much pressure.