Misty Watered Down
(The Way We Weren’t)
by Mad Dog
The amazing thing is that an adult moth can remember
anything, since their transformation from caterpillar is basically one
of complete deconstruction, going from crawling larva to soupy mess to
flying moth. And you thought your adolescence was tough.
||If there’s one thing
parents everywhere ask themselves daily, it’s “What the heck were we
thinking?” Just kidding. Actually what they’re asking is whether
their kids will remember any of their childhood — the good, the bad,
or the things you’ll tell them years from now they imagined. It’s
safe to say the answer is “yes.” At least it is if your children are
anything like caterpillars.
A study done by scientists at
Georgetown University found that moths remember things that happened to
them when they were caterpillars. You know, things like having gone
hours without a good leaf to munch on, hearing butterflies taunt their
parents by calling them a “colorless waste of wings,” and seeing a
centipede flash them by lifting each of its hundred legs. Just kidding
again. Actually what they remembered was a scientist making them smell
nail polish and then giving them a shock, but then who wouldn’t
remember that kind of larval abuse?
The amazing thing is that an adult
moth can remember anything, since their transformation from caterpillar
is basically one of complete deconstruction, going from crawling larva
to soupy mess to flying moth. And you thought your adolescence was
tough. But they do remember things, and if they have remembrances of
their formative days as a caterpillar then we must hold on to our early
memories too. Call me an optimist, but I like to think we’re at least
as evolved as a creature that flies into a candle flame even after
watching its whole family fall for the same trick.
The truth is, we don’t need to retain childhood memories.
In fact, we don’t need to remember anything anymore because we have
Most of us, however, remember little or nothing of our early
childhood. We’ve all known people who say they have memories from when
they were a baby, but I for one have always doubted it. Not being a
neuroscientist — I only play one in the bedroom, and even then only if
the Big Bird costume is at the dry cleaners — I have no idea why we
don’t remember these things. What I do know is that it’s not
important. After all, why should we clutter our brains with all that
childhood stuff when it’s hard enough to remember where we put the
house keys, what we did with the rest of that burrito we were eating in
the car, and why today seems to be so important to our spouse that
we’re in big, big trouble because we don’t have a clue. It’s
memory triage — we remember what we consider to be the important stuff
and don’t worry about the rest.
The truth is, we don’t need to
retain childhood memories. In fact, we don’t need to remember anything
anymore because we have the Internet. It’s not necessary to cram
anything more in our minds — or even retain what little we have left
— as long as we remember how to find Google. True, this doesn’t work
too well for personal memories, but that’s only the case if you’re
older than Hannah Montana. For the younger generation, their lives will
be completely searchable.
It starts when parents post photos
and blogs as soon as their children are born. Then when the tykes are
old enough to click a mouse button and hack NetNanny — usually by age
four — they post their lives on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and
One-Day.com. It’s all there for the world to see, Google to catalog,
and them to retrieve later in life when someone asks who their third
grade teacher was, what street they grew up on, or what their parents’
names are. Not needing to remember that information will leave them more
room to store the important things in life, like their cell phone
number, how to get to the highest level of Grand Theft Auto: The
White House, and the password to www.sothatwasmylife.com.
Woodstock, where 500,000 people showed up, 175 remember more than a
blurry haze, and everyone who’s ever seen the movie is convinced they
were actually there, it’s easy to have our memories co-opted.
The good part is that their retrieved memories will probably be
more accurate than mine are. That’s because most of mine aren’t
really mine. Some come from photographs or 8mm footage I’ve seen over
the years, usually embarrassing images my sisters-in-law insist on
trotting out at every family gathering. I don’t remember these events
having actually happened, yet they’re firmly implanted in my mind. And
funny thing, those memories look exactly like the photos.
Then there are the memories that are
based on apocryphal stories and anecdotal evidence. These were handed
down by my parents, who I’m convinced stayed awake at night making up
what they thought were cute — and we interpret as being mortally
embarrassing — stories about us. I don’t remember having slid down
the snowy driveway sitting in one of my mother’s good pots, asking my
father if we could plant a hot dog tree in the garden, or calling a
bathing suit a “baby soup,” though I do remember hearing my parents
tell me about them. At every opportunity. Over and over again,
especially in front of any friend, girlfriend, or homeless stray I was
stupid enough to bring into the house. My childhood was co-opted by my
Like Woodstock, where 500,000 people
showed up, 175 remember more than a blurry haze, and everyone who’s
ever seen the movie —including people who weren’t born yet — is
convinced they were actually there, it’s easy to have our memories
co-opted. Just ask any moth. Chances are they remember two things from
their youth: getting shocked after smelling nail polish and Jimi Hendrix
playing the Star Spangled Banner as the sun rose over Woodstock.
The question is, Do they really remember these things or did they read
them here? I’d tell, but I don’t remember myself.
©2008 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Try
to remember having read them.