If I could sum up the most important thing I learned during my junior high years, it would be the statement frequently heard in my Social Studies class when a question was posed by our teacher to which no one had the answer. “You remember what you want to remember,” she thundered. I cowered. I was a timid soul in those years.
Miss Dunn was the end of the line for the never married teacher. She must have been under 5′ tall, stout, buxom, with greyish white hair, cut short. You didn’t mess with Miss Dunn, but you learned what she wanted to teach you. She still had the remnants of an Irish brogue and she scared me to death. She taught me grammar in 7th grade and then was my Social Studies teacher in 8th. She was a stickler for details, but when she taught, I remembered, because I knew it was in my best interests. I’ve often said she was the only good teacher I ever had as an undergrad. The above photo is the only time I remember her smiling. May she rest in peace.
I never have described myself as someone with a “good” memory. These days, as my recall gets a little dodgy, Miss Dunn’s words continue to reverberate. Do I not care enough about the things I’m forgetting? Maybe not! There are still many things I clearly remember. They are usually things that I cared about or things that scared the s*%t out of me, searing some brain cells in the process.
But, heaven help me if Miss Helen Dunn would reappear today to ask me what I ate for dinner last week, or ask me to remember details of a conversation I had recently. Could not do. I obviously just didn’t care enough.
Now, some things just have stayed with me, like the words to songs or my mother’s warnings like “Don’t come crying to me!” I’ve never been one to remember plots of movies. That’s been going on for a long time. Now, even if I hear the title, I might not be sure I’ve seen it, never mind recount the plot! I also can forget the plots of books, although I generally remember if I liked/disliked.
But I’m not getting worked up about being a little more forgetful than I’ve been. Yet.
I love the poignant ballads, “I Remember You” as well as “Try to Remember.” I’ll feel certain that I’ll still be able to sing those songs on my deathbed.
I’ve always had trouble remembering why I’m angry at someone because I can’t usually remember the reason for it. That’s for the best I think. I have been heard to say, “I’m supposed to be angry with _____, but I forgot why.”
All the new emphasis on brain exercises doesn’t interest me. I still like to think, as Miss Dunn would have it, that if it’s important enough, I’ll remember it!