It seems I’m the one with the memory in my family. Try living with two old folks in your house and you get a lot of questions like “What? What’s that you said?” and stories told again and again. Not even the good kind of stories, the kind you’d like to hear sitting in front of a roaring fire while sipping mulled cider in the dead of winter. No, the kinds of stories I hear repeatedly, even 5,000 miles away via telephone in Brazil, are these: “I saw Mr. Lumbra at the post office. He says hi. He’s getting a root canal on Thursday.” Those are the kinds of things I hear again and again. My mom always makes fun of me for repeating “I’m so tired,” all the time, but I don’t think she’s paid all that much attention to how often I say “You told me that already.”
She’s always been amazed by my memory; in fact, one of my earliest memories is her saying, “Gosh, Gina, how can you remember that?” after I’d told her something I’d remembered, some obscure detail of an outfit she wore or of something someone said on a family vacation in Tennessee.
It’s even worse when we talk about movies, and here’s why: the only actor’s name she can remember is Tom Hanks. In fact, this is SO true that I play a game with her: Name five movies that DON’T have Tom Hanks in them. There’s not even a time limit to this game and here are the ones she continually comes up with:
- Gone With the Wind
- Singin’ In the Rain
[and then a really long pause]
- Something’s Gotta Give
In any case, we had another one of those conversations tonight via Skype. She was telling me about the movie “Mama Mia” that should be coming out at the end of June/beginning of July, in Vermont. The actors she was TRYING to remember were Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. Here’s how it went:
Mom: Oh! There’s this fantastic movie coming out! It’s “Mama Mia!”
Gina: Isn’t that a Broadway musical?
Mom: Oh yes! But they’ve turned it into a movie!
Gina: Oh. Cool!
Mom: Yes! And let me think….who’s in it? Ohhh, wait.
[At this point, a series of groans begins, as if she is audibly trying to wring her brain for the right names.]
Mom: You know, it’s the one who….she’s blonde….and, you know her. She’s pretty and she’s blonde. You know her! The one who….GLEN CLOSE!
Gina: Oh…well, it could be…
Mom: But it’s not Glen Close. It’s the other one. She sings! And she’s blonde and pretty…You know….She was in….oh, what’s the name of that movie? You know…she’s…..um….
Gina: Meryl Streep?
Mom: YES!! Meryl Streep! And who else…? Um, ah, wait a second….the guy Double O Seven. That guy. There was that guy, right?
Gina: There were a lot of those guys. James Bond?
Mom: Yes. James Bond. But wait, he was the one who…ahhh…uhhh, the one who…
Gina: Sean Connery?
Mom: YES! Sean Connery!
Gina: Sean Connery’s in the movie?
Mom: But not him. No, the other one. The other Double O Seven guy…..Tom Hanks!
Gina: Oh no.
Mom: I was kidding. Lighten up….But you know. Oh, help me! What’s his name? Uhhh…
[This goes on for several seconds and at last, it appears she’s wrung out the right names:]
Pierce Brosnan Brosnan Pierce!
Gina: Pierce Brosnan.
Mom: And there’s so many others!
Gina: We don’t have to figure them out. Two’s enough tonight. You can rest now.
She lets out an exhausted sigh as if she’s thrown herself across a finish line of sorts and appears to collapse, fully spent from remembering names.
It’s not like things are getting worse. This is how they’ve always been, since the beginning of time. She can remember numbers like they’re the keys to breath, but when it comes to names—-even MINE—-she’s hopeless. Trust me. I’ve been called the following: “Tico,” “Murphy,” “Kellie,” “Henry,” “Eliza,” “Frank,” and “Toni.” Those are the names her siblings and niece and nephew, her husband, and two dogs. (I dare you to guess who’s who.) I am her only child. I think that’s why she gave me so many nicknames because it was just easier than remembering my name. But go figure, I respond just as readily to my nicknames than to my real name and in fact, when Dennis calls me “Gina” I think he’s mad at me.
My mom also told me not to write that conversation, but my writing does no justice to how it is in real life, so it’s not like I wrote it well or even accurately. There’s really much more anguish on her part, and much more laughing on mine. But I know she’s laughing now reading this, so you can just go ahead and take that, Mother. Ah, the pen: so much mightier than the memory.