Have you ever noticed most families have one member who always remembers dates?
This person knows all the anniversaries, birthdays, death dates and obscure family lore milestones. They often make comments such as, “It was 55 years ago today Uncle Filmore ran off with that hula dancer from Honolulu” or “Today marks the fifth-year anniversary of our first movie date. Not to be confused with our first dinner date or our first double date.”
This family member knows when grandma and grandpa’s wedding anniversary is and can rattle off the birthdays of the children of your first cousin twice removed.
Sometimes this person can be annoying. (“Enough already about the year we remodeled the basement!”) But sometimes this person is a hero. (“Is Dad’s birthday tomorrow?”)
In our family, this person is (wait for it)… me.
Yes, I’m sure you’re shocked.
I can tell you the month, day and year my grandfather and his siblings were born and died. I know the date we brought home our sweet spaniel Molly and I can recite the number of times we’ve moved our daughter in and out of dormitories and apartments.
My husband has little interest in remembering dates. As he puts it, there are two kinds of people in the world, those who always remember and those who always forget. There’s no in-between.
If you’re someone who normally remembers dates and then happen to forget one, you feel guilty.
But if you’ve purposely built a reputation for never remembering, there’s no pressure. No one expects anything from you.
I am the one who remembers nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays. I wake up on July 21 and say, “Your mother would have been 85 today.”
Some people just have a natural ability to know dates. They can name when Illinois joined the Union, Paul McCartney’s birthday and the day Richard Nixon resigned.
These are the people you want nearby when you’re playing “HQ” or some other online trivia game.
Other people use commonly known days to trigger memories. They don’t really memorize new dates, they just relate them to milestones already firmly planted in their minds.
“Uncle Filmore died on St. Patrick’s Day” (after many happy years with the hula dancer.)
Or, “We met in the return line at Kohl’s on the day after Christmas.”
To remember our wedding anniversary, my husband relies on a history lesson. He knows the date falls between two key events in World War II, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. We celebrated our 14th anniversary on Aug. 7, and yes, he remembered.
Of course today’s technology is a great helper when it comes to tracking important calendar items. A smart phone can remind you when it’s Professional Administrative Assistants’ Day. But then you have to remember the password to your phone.
Interestingly, there are a handful of people in the U.S. — a half dozen in 2010 according to CBS Television — who have a “super autobiographical memory.” They remember every moment of their lives as if it just happened. Dates are no problem for them; they just flip through their Rolodex of memories. They can recite not only what happened yesterday, but every August 9 of their lives.
This does not sound fun to me. To remember birthdays, yes, but to completely recall the good, bad and ugly of my whole life? Not so much.
William James, a psychologist and philosopher in the late 19th century, said, “If we remembered everything, we should, on most occasions, be as ill off as if we remembered nothing.”
James died in 1910; the same year as my mother’s mother was born … on Jan. 13 … the same day my mother was born 35 years later.