Did you ever play the Memory Game? We bought it when Tall was still in diapers (okay, he wasn’t even crawling yet) so he could hone his memory skills from the crib.
I sit down on the couch to play the Memory Game with him. We lay out all 100 square tiles (50 matching pairs) on our large wood coffee table, face down, and mix them up. I let him go first, because I want him to win. It will help boost his self-confidence. Turns out, I didn’t really need to worry about that.
He randomly flips over two squares, no match. I methodically flip over the two closest to me, stare at them, and will myself to memorize them. I go so far as to announce them out loud, as if we are at a wedding announcing the new bride and groom: “Introducing for the first time ever, the happy couple Zebra and Mouse! Congratulations!” Zebra and mouse zebra and mouse zebra and mouse, far left and next to it, zebra and mouse.
Wait, what did Tall have again? Did he have pony and grasshopper? Or was it horse and ladybug? And were his right in the middle, or slightly above the middle? What did I have again? One was gray. Did I have armadillo?
Tall flips over two more tiles, one is a zebra. Aha! I place my hand on it the second he removes his. One zebra and one … mouse? No! Nooooooooo! I just did that square! What happened to the other zebra?
Tall’s turn. Two zebras. Yay for him. He gets a bonus turn. A cat and a dolphin. My turn. I methodically flip over the squares on the bottom row. Dolphin and dinosaur. Wait, what kind of dinosaur is it? Is that a T-rex? Or triceratops? Maybe it’s a pterodactyl. Are there more than one kind of dinosaur mixed in this game? Should I just say “dinosaur”? Is that good enough?
“Mom, it’s my go. Flip your stegosaurus back over. Hurry up.”
I reluctantly do as instructed. He (unsurprisingly) gets two dolphins. He flips another new card to reveal a grasshopper and then he remembers where the other one was (naturally) and makes another pair. “Yes! I found both centipedes!” he cheers.
The game progresses in this fashion until his stack of tiles is teetering and mine is, well, mine I can count on one hand. Where did my memory cells go? This is an easy game, I should be good at this.
The problem is, my memory is already full. It’s got that semester in Italy crammed in there, right next to all the stuff I learned in flight attendant training. Stacked on top of that is the floorplan of my old house in California, including where to get parts for that vintage stove we used to have. I can see what I wore to dinner the first night of our honeymoon. I can still taste our wedding cake (chocolate). There is that memory of me playing Barbies with my little sister. I remember where I hid my mom’s cigarettes so she wouldn’t find them. I remember losing the spelling bee on a simple word (bicolor—yes, I spelled it with a “y”). I know my locker combination from 6th grade. I can vividly recall the precise chemical smell from the first time I got my hair highlighted. I remember the poster I bought at The Tate Gallery in London. I remember realizing later that I'd inadvertently left it on the train. I remember how it felt to hold my infant son for the first time. What it felt like to listen to him breathe. I remember the name of the doctor who delivered him. And the nurse.
My brain is full, so full, names of doctors, teachers, my teachers, my sons’ teachers, friends, neighbors, faces, places, houses, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings. I remember so much. Except where the dolphin tile is.
I tell myself I am letting him win. Yeah, that’s it.
(“Mom’s Other Victory”)