Memory by D. L. Hungerford

I originally wrote this post for my Novel Approach blog on March 23, 2013.  The dates are off, I’m retired now and not commuting.  But the memory is still sketchy.

This week, my commute-busting audio book is “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict” by Laurie Viera Rigler. I found the story fun, interesting, engaging, all the good buzz words. I even enjoyed the obligatory meeting with Miss Austen that all these sorts of novel must have.

One more of the fun parts of this hugely fun book is the protagonist having memories from her own life, and obtaining memories from the woman in whose body she finds herself. Confusing, alarming, often sad, this is a situation with which I can totally identify.

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I am of a certain age, that age when memory starts to fade. And I had an unusually good memory for most of my life. Making the times when it fails me so much more annoying, if not devastating.

In the years past, I loved video games. I’ve played Quake, Halo, Half Life, Blade Runner, Castle Wolfenstein, DOOM, Call of Duty, Civilization, and more whose names I can’t remember. How I know I can’t remember is that I have a very clear mind picture of something that happened in the game, or of a scene from the game.

Imagine walking through a building for the first time, and getting a flash of memory telling you that if you take this elevator up, the Flood will find you and consume you. Only as you check for weapons and ammo do you remember that you’re on the wrong planet for that memory.

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Enter television, movies, books– yes, I even get flashes of how I pictured the settings and the action in all the books I read and have read. Amazing that I have any storage space left in my gray matter.

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Songs – How could I forget? My mother joined the church choir when I was about 2 years old. I got to accompany her to practice every week and was at least in the church on Sundays. The choir also served my mother as her social group, so we had parties where people actually gathered around a piano and sang. Music is one of those things I get, with little formal training. Move over, phone numbers, I just learned a new song.

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I don’t know how long ago I memorized my social security number, and I can tell you my address and phone number from when I was in the second grade. Been married 16.5 years, still have to ask my husband for his social whenever I need it. Now and then I get our address wrong. Well, we’ve only lived here 12 years, so give it some time.

I squeaked out of high school with a D in basic math, much to the disappointment of my teacher who so looked forward to flunking me. I have gotten enough joy out of telling that story that forgiving her is easy. Back to numbers, they are a week area in my brain, possibly because of the evil teacher, and possibly because I just couldn’t memorize multiplication tables. Today, give me a calculator and I’m good to go.

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As I said, I’ve been married for nearly 17 years, and lived with my husband a total of 19 years now. I cannot remember which events of the past were shared with him, which events were shared with a series of roommates, and which events I just went to alone. I’m not talking about the days when we first met, because that sequence of events is indelible. But conventions I attended, movies I saw, book signings I got to. The lines blur so much, and maybe because I don’t want to remember when we weren’t together.

Some times a good way to move a story along is to have the main characters lose an important memory, temporarily. If you read the book “Up in the Air” (I can’t speak for the movie, haven’t seen it yet) but memory plays a key role in the events that unfold. A Romance trope involves one of the lovers losing their memory, and having to learn to trust – or not trust – the one who claims to be their lover, and so on.

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Too bad there aren’t more Romances involving older main characters. They could fall in love at first sight, every time they left the room and then returned. Which reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all times, “Love Among the Ruins” starring the great Katherine Hepburn and Sir Lawrence Olivier.

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