A pink banana seated Huffy bike passed down from an older sister. Tag and keep away played on endless summer nights. Laying on the grass of Miss Kitty’s front lawn watching fireflies dance across the sky. When I imagine my childhood these are just a few of the memories I have stored in my internal filing cabinet. They’re locked away for days when work seems like it’ll never end or when all my aspirations seem hopeless.
What I don’t, or try not to remember are stories, told by my parents, of the dangerous neighborhood where I lived as an adolescent. Gun fights and drug laced candy don’t fit into my rosy hued memories, nor do cops and gangs. I suppose I may have watch them play out or heard about them long ago, but those particular memories are not ones I necessarily want to remember. You wouldn’t find them in my not so orderly filing cabinet, but in the over flowing paper shredder shoved in the darker recess of my mind.
Memories are a strange thing. There are three different kinds of memories: good, bad, and mediocre. The good ones are sometimes the slipperiest, sometimes they’ve been imprinted in your mind with every exact detail, and sometimes not. Most often, they are memories of memories, something you almost remember, but cannot quite grasp. For instance, I remember my Grandmother’s couch, a relic from the seventies, her carpet, and a doorstop in the shape of a dog. I was only two, but I will always be able to revisit that couch and that carpet - the doorstop I ended up inheriting. Who I won’t be able to visit is my Grandmother, nor will I be able to recall a particular conversation we had.
In the bad memories, you remember every word you said, wanted to say, or should have said. You also remember what was said to you. You remember the place, the smell, and most importantly how you felt. Grudges form over this type of memory-that’s why all mine find a home in the paper shredder. It’s not just what’s done to you that’s remembered, but what you’ve done to other people. Way back in the not so superlative neighborhood, I remember a man named Kurt who lived with his dog and a couple of marijuana plants. He was a genuine person who habitually liked to be left alone. Not exactly the type of person deserving of childish ridicule, but ridicule him I did. The worst part of this transgression, the part I cannot shred enough, is that I had the audacity to do it in front of him. I wish I could unsay what I said. I wish I could change the fallen look on his face, but I can’t. Sometimes, bad memories just won’t fade.
The last memory is the mediocre. They are the most prevalent and tend to take up most of the folders from A right down to Z. You wish you could forget most of these too. What you wore on this day, what you said on that day, the not so delightful C you got on an exam, but at least it’s not an F. They take up too much room and don’t offer anything desirable in return. Maybe if I were able to recycle some of these mediocre memories I could retain more of the really good ones.
Even though some you would rather forget and some you would love to remember (and then some you just don’t care about), all your memories are important. Without each of them you would not be you. That’s why the shredded memories never make it to the curb on trash day.