Saturday, April 2, 2011

The memory of forgetting

Perhaps becoming comfortable with wine, making it a friend, has less to do with how quickly we learn, and more with how quickly we forget. Speaking about an individual wine is mightily incoherrent without the context of memory, and the background palatte of other bottles and other meals. When we talk about a nebbiolo, we talk about every nebbiolo, all nebbiolos, and this bottle's relation to those and ourselves, as in a weave. Or we don't talk well at all. Each bottle is a part of the vocabulary of description, and you can tell a person's inexperience with wine by the poverty of their speech in describing it. I do not think it is possible to talk, or to drink, in a vacuum. We have to remember to retell.

As soon as I thought I could I tested myself. Where were the limits of my memory? We lived at that time in one of those Central California suburbs where all you have is a lot of space and a lot of sunshine. My bedroom as a child was apparently endless. There was a giant desk, a closet full of room, and a sprawling table. I had a queen size waterbed against the wall. And there was a chest of drawers. Probably too much space, and I never could use all of it. If there were six drawers, I may have used four with any regularity. I proposed an experiment: removing 4 pairs of white tube socks from their normal resting place in a top drawer, I put them down below, in a drawer that I never used (who likes to reach down for a bottom drawer, anyway?). How long would it take me to forget that they were there?

A day passed and I remembered about those socks. I even peaked in on them, to show myself. They were there. Two, three days and I still remembered. Four days and I could have pulled them out again. It was probably five or six days - it is hard to know, exactly - before they slipped out of my mind, even though nothing about them had changed. That's funny, the way it is with memory: nothing changes about the object whatsoever, but the recognition of it is gone. It's hidden without any disguise.

Five years passed and we moved. I emptied out all my belongings from the apartment, it took quite awhile, and that's when I found those socks. Still four pairs, still in the bottom drawer of the chest by the window. They were too small for me by several sizes by the time I found them - I had grown quite a bit - and I wondered about whose they were. I had fooled myself into thinking that they must be someone elses. How did they get here? I wanted to know. Maybe a year passed before I remembered most of the story, pieces at a time, and recalled even going in shoes without socks on certain occasions, because as a young child it seemed like I had never had enough socks.

You can forget what you have, until you find it again.

if you hide these somewhere, you might go ahead and tell somebody about that before you forget

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