Monday, July 2, 2012

I Remember.........Nora Ephron

Like many I'm sure, I was devastated to hear of Nora Ephron's passing--she was younger then me and far more perceptive of the world around her.   I will miss her greatly.  She was an astute observer of life around her and particularly so of herself.  Several of her books and especially her last one, I Remember Nothing are filled with observations of her world.  I am rereading I Remember Northing on my Kindle and iPad (depends upon which I have with me at the moment) and I once again laugh and cry at her comments.

I list Nora and what was the name of that famous woman anthropologist that i like as well.....hold on let me google it.....yes, Margaret Mead.  You see I am in Nora's camp--I forget names.  I always have.  And I laughed when I read that Nora had a secret code with her husband when she didn't remember the name and would pinch him on the upper arm, meaning 'get this person's name for me,' except sometimes he wouldn't know how or who the person was.  Ah, yes, my wife and I have that same signal--for me to say to her, who is that?   And up to a few years ago this worked well--she would tell me and I could go up to the person, extend my hand and say, "Hello (place appropriate name here), it's good to see you again."  Unfortunately my wife's memory of names is fading and we look at each other in dismay.  Was this person in one of our classes?  Or the yacht club?  We struggle on in conversation with people we can't remember. At least we haven't yet reached Nora's stage where she once did not recognize her sister in a mall.  But we're getting there.

Strange there are many things I'm forgetting.  Thank heaven's for smart phones (I have an iPhone) where one can put in combinations, gate codes, and for some of us oldsters, our social security number.  Who knew it would be this important when we first got them so many years ago.

But it is strange the things I do remember.  I can remember about this time of the year in 1953 getting on a school bus and going with a group to the Bronx Zoo as a volunteer and was given the charge of taking care of ten little boys, no make that ten little excited boys.  We looked at the animals, bought hot dogs and along the way, collected two more boys who had become lost from their assigned groups.  I can remember placing a couple of the youngest kids on my shoulders, one at a time, as they were getting very tired.  I remember telling them to keep a good watch out for our group--and they did.  "Saul is over by the bear cage" and we'd yell and get Saul back."  Why do I remember this?  Because I spent the day calling him Paul--poor guy.  I wasn't in tune with my kids.  It was a fun but tiring day for me and when we returned to the buses I had the two missing kids.  Everyone was relieved and the next day I was asked if I would like to become a playground supervisor for the summer.  If so, be at the training class the next three mornings and be sure to sign in with the main office so I could be paid.  A paying summer job.  I remember.  

I learned to call Paul, Saul, and the other kids by the right name.  I learned that you can't play softball in high heat and humidity, that lying under the oak tree and telling stories was a far better summer past time.  I remember with vivid detail.  Strange....

That summer and the next were like basic training for me on how to handle kids, disasters, change of plans, the unexpected and how to like kids.  Some kids I could hug, others needed directions.  I began to look at kids differently--they were all different.  And I made mistakes.  Oh boy did I make mistakes.  I remember the mistakes.  I had the girls play games with the boys.  Someone had not told me this wasn't done in 1953.  Well..... on my playground the girls got equal time at bat, or whatever the game was.  It just seemed right.  Title Nine was a long time in the future but my playground was on the right track--yes, I remember.

There is a lot that I remember.  Most of it is narrative, not facts.  I couldn't tell you any of the scores of those games we played--I don't think we kept score.  My memory for facts is devastatingly poor, always has been.  Which is why I've been on this theme for so long.  

I'm ahead of Nora--I wish she was here to tell us how dying is like.  But she did tell me how not remembering works.  I agree with her.  I chuckled when she spoke of her memory as a hard drive and finally decided that it wasn't all filled up, that being the reason for her poor memory, but that it was erased, empty. I've ponder that in my mind as well--is it because my memory bank is filled up or because i've erased much of it.  I think the latter.  If I am only a 64K memory bank then why not only remember the good stuff and throw out the embarrassments, the damn fool things I've done, along with all the stupid things I've manage to do.  Keep the good and throw out the bad.  Right.

But this raises an interesting question in my mind.  What stuff should I remember?  Time tables?  Okay. Cool.  The dates of all the wars that the United States has been in?  Whoa, I'm not so sure.  I can ask Siri that question.  Or Google it.  Which information should I memorize and which information can I let fly by.  I do remember that I taught a lot of information in my intermediate grade classes stuff for them to memorize which today is not important.  I do have some guilty feelings about that.  So what should our curriculum be--which knowledge is of most important.  My oh my what an assignment for a graduate class in education, list those categories that we should remember, put in our memory bank.  

Thanks, Nora.  You were (and still am) a good teacher.  What really bothers me is that I'll never know why you wrote "Sleepless in Seattle," when you always loved New York City.   I'll always remember you--I hope.  God Bless.

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