Our memories are selective—more for some than others. I’m of the selective variety. My husband is not. He remembers everything about our marriage, our house, our cars, our pets, our appliances. He remembers everything he learned in elementary school through the completion of his teaching credential. He remembers everything about his health, my health, our sons’ health, the pets’ health, world affairs. I remember how many minutes per pound to cook a whole chicken, how long it takes to make a good soft-boiled egg, how to negotiate a round-about, how to parallel park, how to punctuate a sentence, that “i” goes before “e” except after “c”, and how to play Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor. When we travel in Europe, I rely on my husband to tell me when a building was constructed, rulers ruled and fell, the wars began and ended. He relies on me to navigate our hotels, meals, auto leases, miscellaneous purchases, and chit chat in French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Portuguese. This describes a symbiotic memory of sorts.
My sons have brought me great joy. I would have them again in a heartbeat and raise them with great pride. The act of childbirth, however, comes equipped with an automatic forgetting mechanism. Otherwise, why on earth would we bear more than one child? I figure that Zero Population Growth was started by women whose memory was more acute than the general sisterhood. Clearly, I am a member of the general sisterhood rather than the acute club.
When our younger boys are together (younger meaning 23 and 29), they reminisce about things that make me squirmy. They remember experiences that I have unconsciously, I think, chosen to forget—much like the pain of childbirth. My contribution to these experiences, for the most part, would have been different if I could have a do-over. These experiences include forced Sunday school attendance, forced rides in the country, forced this and forced that. And then there was the occasional explosion that comes with childrearing--the one where I shout uselessly into the ether in the general direction of children’s ears. These incidences most accurately account for “mother’s guilt.” And while we hope to learn from the history in our experiences, I’m not sure it’s worthwhile to be bludgeoned with it. Better to forget—or leave it alone. But the boys received the memory gene from their father. I wish they would remember more like me—selectively.