As a writer who likes to write about childhood memories I often wonder if my memory is getting it right, or am I just making it up as I go along? Who knows? It’s a mystery.
A long time ago I read a book titled “The Memory Book”. Wait, no, it was called “Your Memory and You”. Sorry, “Everlasting Memory” was the name. Anyway the book was about how anyone with half a brain could improve their memory. Wait. I can see it on my shelf from here. It’s “The Memory Book.” See? I still got it. The book, not a great memory.
Anyway, it’s a great book. I don’t remember why I bought it. Contrary to those who may know me I don’t have a bad memory. If I don’t remember something you told me, chances are I wasn’t listening in the first place. If I do that often you should probably just stop trying to tell me things. It’s not going to get better.
The book was very interesting and I did learn some cool memory tricks. I can actually recite in any order a list of 100 things told to me just once. Not remember them just once, but recite them after listening to them just once. Yeah, that sentence didn’t help either. Anyway it was a cool trick, but rather useless in real life.
Sometimes, just for the hell of it, I play memory games with myself. Something somewhere will remind me of something long ago and I will stop and try and remember it in my mind as vividly as possible. I force myself to go deep and look for memories just because I can. It’s an exercise. Kind of like working out your brain. I had read somewhere (oh yeah, in that memory book) that it is good to exercise the old neurons. It’s good to go in there and fire off some synapses that haven’t seen the lighting in forever and get them going. Keeps you young, so they say.
Today I did that. I saw the word “corps” written somewhere (yeah, I don’t remember where) and just for a second I thought of my old (not just old in my memory, but old back then for real) third grade teacher Mrs. Corpestein (probably spelled wrong). So I stopped for a second and intentionally tried to remember everything I could about her.
I pictured her in the classroom. She was in her sixties with greyish hair. Her hair was usually in curls. She wore plastic black rim glasses (you know, the kind that look like Catwoman’s mask in the 70’s). I continued and pictured her in class writing the alphabet up on the board. I could hear her talking in that old lady voice of hers. Probably getting after Juan Martin Gonzalez because he would never shut up in class. Then, for some reason I pictured her wearing curlers in her hair and an apron. She had on these huge pipe looking curlers women would use back in the day with bobby pins to hold them in. Sure, possible. But then, all of sudden, I had this clear picture of her wearing one of those old night caps over her head like women wore in old West shows like Little House on the Prairie. Still possible, I guess. This was the 70’s after all and she was older than the moon (the moon back then not the moon now) and old people did strange stuff back then. But then I pictured sitting on her bed with her back to the headboard and eating some soup or oatmeal from a bowl. Then, as clearly as if I was there in the room with her, I heard a knock on the door. And of course it was the stupid big bad wolf coming to devour her and I suddenly realized I had no freaking idea what the hell my old third grade teacher looked like. Not a clue. Stupid memory book! Stupid Little Red Riding Hood!
“I vas crushed!” (German guy in Three Amigos). How could my memory be so bad? How could I not remember such a kind and wonderful teacher as Mrs. Corpestein? What else have I forgotten?
So I tried it again. Second grade. Mrs. Fields. I got this one. No problem. This wasn’t a good memory issue though. Mrs. Fields just happen to be the only black woman in the school (or really anywhere else in the Rio Grande Valley in the 70’s). I remember her being about 7 feet tall. I am not kidding about this. She was tall, and not just taller than us short Mexicans, she was honestly just freakishly tall. She always wore a long dress almost down to her ankles. And she always had a long colorful silk scarf wrapped around her neck with one side hanging down the front and the other half of the scarf hanging down her back. I remember the scarf almost reaching her ankles also. I also remember her always drinking Vick’s Formula 44-D Cough Syrup. She would just pull it out of her purse and drink it like if it was water right from the bottle. Never heard her cough even once, though. Strange.
Of course thinking about all that now I figure some of it can’t be true. If she was 7 feet tall and she had a scarf that almost reached her ankles with both ends then that scarf would have to be 14 feet long! Do they make 14 feet long scarfs? Do they make 14 feet long curtains for that matter? I know the cough syrup thing is true though. And back in the day they had some strong stuff in those bottles. I think they even put cocaine in those syrups back then. Yes, not codeine, but cocaine. So if my memory is correct the first black woman I ever knew happen to be a 7-foot tall cocaine addict with a 14-foot scarf? What the hell? Was she even black? I have no idea. Stupid memory book!
Trying to hold to just a smidgen of my memory self respect I went on to another teacher. Mrs. Robinson. She was my first teacher who wasn’t 100 years old. I think I had her in the fifth grade. As a matter of fact, I think she was rather young and pretty. Kind of like a young Anne Bancroft. She kind of came on to me. Dammit! That’s the movie The Graduate! My fourth grade teacher Siruis Black? Dammit! That’s Harry Potter! Shit! Stupid memory book!
Maybe I was home schooled. Was that a thing in the 70’s? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. I’ll regroup and get back with you guys. This could take a while. Assuming I remember to do it all. Don’t wait up.