I’m in DC for a few days to visit Mom. It’s the city where I did most of my growing up (assuming, of course, that I actually did grow up) and it’s always a little weird to come back. There are parts of it that still feel very much like home (whatever that means) and there are an awful lot of memory triggers around town that manage to catch me by surprise when I stumble across them. Today, for instance, I realized that a house I was driving by was not only the childhood home of a high school friend, but it was also the house where said friend gave me my first taste of marijuana. (I can say that, yes? The statute of limitations has long since passed. And I’m not running for office anytime soon.)
What made this particular memory trigger so . . . surreal? (I’m not sure what the right word is here, so that’ll have to do for now) . . . was that it happened with Mom in the passenger seat. Which wasn’t awkward because sharing tales of teenage drug use with one’s mother isn’t exactly an easy thing to do (though maybe there was a shred of that) as much as it was awkward because Mom’s got some serious memory issues of her own these days.
So while I’m experiencing a surfeit of memories from 20+ years ago, Mom’s having trouble remembering some pretty basic facts about her own life . . . and trouble remembering conversations that happened mere moments ago. Twice during that same car ride, she asked me how old I was. ‘Cause she couldn’t remember the answer to that question on her own — and ’cause she couldn’t remember that she’d asked the question a mere twenty minutes after I’d answered it the first time.
Perhaps there is some sort of odd “conservation of memory” principle at work here, but the juxtaposition of my mini-flood of memories with Mom’s increasingly “gappy” memory has made for a bit of a push-me/pull-you feel to my trip so far. I don’t think this is quite what they mean when they say you can never go home again . . . but maybe it should be.
You can find a brief explanation of “Rerun Sunday” here.
The post above originally appeared on 7 Mar 2008.