As I told Elvis the other day, I remember it well
Burt's Eye View
The scene is imprinted in my memory in full Kodachrome color. There I was, hoofing it at a pretty good pace on my daily 10-mile run, when suddenly out of the woods burst a …
No, wait. That was somebody else.
I know it wasn’t me because I haven’t run a roll of Kodachrome in years. Or wooded trails. Not to mention 10 miles. Or any other distance that involved the word “run.”
The only thing running off into the unknown is my memory. The older I get, the more I remember things that didn’t happen.
Like the time I was raised by wolves and hung around with this big bear named Baloo. All these years later, I was beginning to feel a bit guilty about tying that flaming branch to Shere Kahn’s tail. I asked my mom — the human one — if I should apologize to the tiger.
“You’re doing it again,” Mom said. “How many times do I need to remind you that there were no wolves in our house — just a pack of wild hyenas.”
I can call to mind that there were four of us kids, a couple dogs, bunches of cats and a few rambunctious cows, but I don’t recall any hyenas, wild or otherwise. Mom’s memory is going.
Misremembering the particulars plagues my family. I know it’s not just me because at gatherings with relatives, I hear some of the most fascinating stories about the weird things I did in my childhood. I wish I had been there.
I stop the storyteller and say, “That was my brother Tim” or “I think that was my cousin Scott” or “That was an episode of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ — I don’t have a brother named Wally.”
“Nope, I remember the dopey look on your face when the manure spreader blew up. It was definitely you. I was there.”
Maybe you were, but I wasn’t. Not that I recollect.
Mom keeps spinning this yarn about when, as a 15-year-old babysitter, I slid my little sister into a narrow, cardboard box. By the time Dad rescued her, her legs were so cramped she couldn’t walk for several minutes.
That doesn’t ring a bell. I thought it was my little brother and an upside-down laundry tote. And I poked a sandwich through the basket holes, so he was fine.
After that, my folks found another babysitter. So I was fine, too. At least, that’s how I remember it. Mom claims a different version of the story.
Maybe she’s right. Maybe I suffer from a condition I invented called Crammed Cranium Syndrome. After more than six decades of accumulating facts, figures and flashbacks, I’ve maxed out capacity. My brain randomly dumps memories every night to make room for the new adventures coming the next day. The old remembrances leak out my ear and soak into my pillow. On laundry day, all those memories are Wisked away with the Tide.
Science calls it “memory distortion.” Researchers say when our brains rearrange the gray matter filing cabinets, snippets get misplaced into other thoughts. That makes all of us susceptible to creating false memories — clearly recalling events that never happened.
So if you can detail every moment of the time you ate cheeseburgers at a truck stop with Elvis in 1986, you’re not crazy — you’re a science experiment.
Like I told Albert Einstein that day we went to Oz, that’s why Mom believes she raised a pack of wild hyenas. She didn’t. It was a herd of crazy baboons. I remember it well.
— Share recollections with Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or at www.burtonwcole.com.