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Misty Watered Down Memories
(The Way We Werenít)

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 thereís one thing parents everywhere ask themselves daily, itís ďWhat the heck were we thinking?Ē Just kidding. Actually what theyíre asking is whether their kids will remember any of their childhood ó the good, the bad, or the things youíll tell them years from now they imagined. Itís safe to say the answer is ďyes.Ē 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 ďcolorless waste of wings,Ē 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 wouldnít 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 weíre 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 donít need to retain childhood memories. In fact, we donít need to remember anything anymore because we have the Internet.
   Most of us, however, remember little or nothing of our early childhood. Weíve 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 ó I only play one in the bedroom, and even then only if the Big Bird costume is at the dry cleaners ó I have no idea why we donít remember these things. What I do know is that itís not important. After all, why should we clutter our brains with all that childhood stuff when itís 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 weíre in big, big trouble because we donít have a clue. Itís memory triage ó we remember what we consider to be the important stuff and donít worry about the rest.

   The truth is, we donít need to retain childhood memories. In fact, we donít need to remember anything anymore because we have the Internet. Itís not necessary to cram anything more in our minds ó or even retain what little we have left ó as long as we remember how to find Google. True, this doesnít work too well for personal memories, but thatís only the case if youíre 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 ó usually by age four ó they post their lives on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and I-Donít-Care-Now-If-Thereís-No-Privacy-But-I-
Suspect-I-Will-When-I-Try-To-Get-A-Good-Job-
One-Day.com. Itís 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 parentsí 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.


Like Woodstock, where 500,000 people showed up, 175 remember more than a blurry haze, and everyone whoís ever seen the movie is convinced they were actually there, itís easy to have our memories co-opted. 
   The good part is that their retrieved memories will probably be more accurate than mine are. Thatís because most of mine arenít really mine. Some come from photographs or 8mm footage Iíve seen over the years, usually embarrassing images my sisters-in-law insist on trotting out at every family gathering. I donít remember these events having actually happened, yet theyíre 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 Iím convinced stayed awake at night making up what they thought were cute ó and we interpret as being mortally embarrassing ó stories about us. I donít remember having slid down the snowy driveway sitting in one of my motherís good pots, asking my father if we could plant a hot dog tree in the garden, or calling a bathing suit a ďbaby soup,Ē 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 parentsí stories.

   Like Woodstock, where 500,000 people showed up, 175 remember more than a blurry haze, and everyone whoís ever seen the movie óincluding people who werenít born yet ó is convinced they were actually there, itís 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? Iíd tell, but I donít remember myself.

©2008 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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