88. Memory

Memory doesn’t light all the corners of our minds equally. There are several different kinds of memory. I taught about six hundred children, and I think I could identify about 300 by their pictures (taken at the time I taught them). That’s pretty good. But I’m taking a course in Feldenkrais movement, in hopes of finding a new way to manage MS, and yesterday, I forgot to bring a pillow.
This is not a function of age; in fifth grade, my parents conspired with my teacher to try to get me to remember homework. I wasn’t allowed to watch television any night I didn’t bring home a note from the teacher indicating that I’d remembered my homework. I didn’t watch much television that year.
When my daughter Lara was three years old, I couldn’t beat her at the Memory card game. Her visual memory was great. I have a good memory for faces (see above), but my short term visual memory for pictures is nothing to brag about. But my auditory memory makes up for it.
There is a common tendency to lump all the types of memory together. You may ask your lawyer spouse, “How come you can remember all the legal precedents you need to, but you can’t remember a simple thing like ______?” Of course, it may be that this lawyer spouse doesn’t consider _______ as high a priority as you wish, but it may also be that remembering _______ requires a completely different kind of memory. Ask this spouse to try proving her/his love by memorizing some fictional legal case you write, and maybe you’ll find out that you are indeed loved.
There are ways to compensate for memory deficits. If there is something I want to be sure to remember to do tomorrow morning, I tie quadruple knots in my shoes. The next morning, I can’t put my shoes on. So I do the thing. Then I untie the knots and put my shoes on. Or if the thing can’t be done until later in the day, I come up with another mnemonic device – put my keys in the wrong pocket, wear a hat I know I’ll remember to take off. These strategies work for me because I’m good at another kind of memory – remembering why I tied quadruple knots, etc.
As I’ve tried to help children develop strategies to compensate for memory difficulties, I’ve come to know more and more that there are many kinds of memory, and that all these are still only a small portion of what intelligence is.

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