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Silver Threads: Where did I put my memory, again?

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

An interesting thing happened while my husband and I were sight-seeing in Costa Rica for 10 days. Well, actually, a lot of interesting things happened: We saw howler monkeys traveling across the mountainous terrain on telephone lines, using their tails as safety straps; iguanas the size of small dogs on the steps linking our hotel rooms to the pool; big, fat raccoons who roamed the woods  back of the beach and dashed over to steal  my chocolate-chip cookies; lots of beautiful tropical flowers and foliage; the blue Pacific with its dolphins and surf, and a volcano that surprised everybody by erupting not too many years ago.

But what I’m fixing to tell you about happened here in New Orleans while we were gone. Some of our friends got in a little tizzy looking for us.

About two weeks before we left, we told a couple at our house for dinner that we’d be heading to Costa Rica soon; another two who live in Mississippi had been notified to wait ‘til we were back home to schedule a visit, and the friend with whom I have a regular Wednesday night movie date was on notice that I’d be unavailable for a while.

But everybody forgot. So when the Mississippi couple decided to come on down at the invitation of some other friends, they called to tell us, couldn’t get me on my cell phone (no service for me in CR), consulted the others, who’d also found us missing, and a small crisis began to develop. Not a huge one, mind you; just an interesting one.

It was at the airport in Miami, homeward bound, that I finally turned the phone back on and got their messages. Gosh, I thought, are these folks losing it or am I?

I was pretty sure they were the ones suffering from a memory lapse; I’d already amused our tour bus driver by haltingly reciting The Lord’s Prayer in Spanish, which I had learned 62 years ago in high school. Doesn’t that mean my own powers of recollection are superbly sharp?

Not exactly. Sometimes I forget how a novel I read a week ago ended, yet still retain the plots of Jane Eyre and War and Peace. I’m not completely sure about the conclusions of movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, but I vividly remember the last scene in Casablanca (the waiting plane, the fog, the hats, the “Here’s looking at you, Kid”).

According to an article somebody e-mailed me -- I forget who -- us older folks simply have so much stored in the memories of our mental computers that it’s hard to pull up things like the ending of a recently viewed movie -- or the info that friends have gone to Costa Rica. Why that should be true I don’t know. It seems to me that the things you put into the bin last should be the easiest to retrieve.

It’s a pity we can’t “de-frag” our collections of recollections. I just want to be able to remember where I put my glasses.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]