By Lynn Moncus: QCS Columnist
A friend once told me she preferred to think of her life as one long freight train, with each car representing a particular era. She said she could then take a mental trip into each car and recall the particular events as they had happened during a specified time. Well, that sounded like a fairly good idea until I tried it and became completely derailed because I had too many cars with which to deal and needed to go to the roundhouse to have the engine turned around.
I think most of us try to come up with some method for recalling our past, but as time goes by, we also tend to have all sorts of breakdowns in our filing systems. We have to pause to try to rearrange those files and to delete as much of the trivia as possible, but that is no easy task because awe are apt to delete the wrong file and have no way of retrieving the information.
My memory files for people cause me the most difficulty of all. I just can’t seem to keep names and faces together, thus spending an inordinate amount of time in trying to remember names. I have tried to organize people into categories according to when and where we first met each other. I think that system worked very well as long as we were in the canyons and didn’t see anyone other than family for several days at a time. It even worked fairly well while I was in public schools because I could remember the ones I knew in the Tucumcari and House schools. Then came the college years, with hundreds more names being added. Once I settled into the teaching years, total chaos began to set in because of the thousands of students I met.
Now, as people approach to speak to me, I stare blankly and try to listen for clues in their remarks while wondering if they were classmates, friends in passing, junior high, high school, or college students. If they address me as Miss Moncus, I have feeling they were students, but have little idea in which era. If they look almost as old as I, they are probably college students. On the other hand, they may be the offspring of other friends who taught their children to use polite titles.
Once I hear their names, I can usually find the remnants of a file that will let me carry on a reasonably sensible conversation. Although we have both changed through the years, I can usually begin to see shadows of the person of the past and recall even small instances from our earlier experiences. I can then begin to feel comfortable and am most pleased they took the time to stop to visit.
As we think of the thousands of people we have known in our life times, we realize that we can’t expect to have instant recall until we have a clue or two. When we haven’t seen a person in forty or fifty years, we usually can’t begin to recognize them until we have some hint as to when and where we knew the individual. At first glance, I am often sure I have never seen the person in my life and wonder how he knows my name. Then embarrassment takes over when I realize how well we knew each other in the past.
Because I have so many such experiences, I have learned to remain fairly calm until I look and listen a little longer. I also learned early on to approach people who I hadn’t seen in a long time by greeting them and telling them my name immediately. Limiting the guessing games is much easier on both of us. I’m sure of you have a far better filing system than mine, and you are very fortunate. In the mean time, I hope to continue to have these experiences and to be able to recall a few things about the people from the past who stop by to chat.