Sunday, March 15, 2009

(Very) Misty, Watercolored Memories


I've long maintained that my decreasing ability to remember things is due to the fact that I have an ever-increasing number of things to remember.

Think about it. At age 46, I have 33 more years of classmates, co-workers and neighbors, dinners, vacations and parties, phone numbers, e-mails and gift ideas to remember than my kids have. I may not remember what we had for dinner last night (or whether we had dinner last night), but I do remember what I ate the night of the Fort Johnson High School Junior-Senior Prom, 1980. We splurged at the Cork and Cleaver, and I had a whole artichoke with lemon butter, mushrooms sauteed in wine, medium-rare filet mignon, and cheesecake. The cheesecake wasn't very good.

I could be wrong about that, though.

Last week, 60 Minutes aired a story about the fallibility of our memories. Apparently, when it comes to recall, "crystal clear" can be Cooper River murky. In the report, we meet a woman who, based on her unwavering, eyewitness identification of the rapist in a lineup, helped convict a man to life in prison. Even when she saw the actual rapist, she didn't recognize him. Twenty years later, DNA evidence proved that the convicted man wasn't guilty, and he was released from prison.

My own memory lapses don't have such life-altering implications, but after only a month or so on Facebook, I'm finding more and more examples of how we remember things differently.

Our recollections can be small, single events or larger, longer-lasting ones. According to the posts I've read, some of the musings of Fort Johnson High School alums include: Remember when you had your wisdom teeth out? Remember that night at Big John's? Remember the (very painful) last Fort Johnson-James Island football game? Remember that week at Folly Beach our senior year? (OK. I admit that there could have been some contributing factors to our collective memory loss that week.)

On the Facebook discussion board, "You Know You Went To Fort Johnson If ..." several alums fondly remember our French teacher as the hottest teacher at school.

Really? I've got to admit, I had to do a double-take there. Then again, I was pretty naive in high school. OK, now that I look back, I can see where kids may have thought that, but back then, it never, ever occurred to me. Ick. (This, despite the fact that she was, in the vernacular of the day, built like a brickhouse. By the way, you know you went to Fort Johnson if you're now singing, "she's mighty, mighty, just letting it all hang out" under your breath.)

Particularly shocking in my Facebook communications to this point is how people claim to remember me: "always smiling," "energetic," and "witty."

Here's how I remember me: awkward, uncomfortable, inappropriate.

Sadly, no one remembers me as having "great hair," "glowing skin" and "fabulous clothes." Rightly so. Nobody's memory is that inaccurate.

Is it always this way? Is there always a vast divide between one person's perception and another person's reality?

Seems like this was once the discussion of a philosophy class I took in college -- but to be honest, I can't remember.

Here's what I can remember: to pick the kids up on time, to make sure the dog is fed and to take care of teachers' gifts. I can remember that my son likes extra cheese on his nachos but no cheese on this tacos. I can remember that my daughter likes potstickers, but only if they're panfried, not steamed. I remember what it felt like to become a mom. And I remember that being a mom is the most important job I could ever have.

And about that prom night cheesecake -- it may have been great. Maybe my memory was tarnished, though, by this recipe, which I acquired a few years later and is truly the best cheesecake ever -- dense, creamy, sweet and slightly tart. (And I'm pretty certain about that, as I've "refreshed" my memory many times in the 20 years I've been making it.)

David's Mom's Cheesecake
Crust
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar

Filling
2, 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Topping
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Mix crust ingredients together (will be crumbly) and press into a 9" springform pan.

For filling, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Finally, stir in vanilla. Pour filling into crust. Back 20 minutes (no longer) and remove from oven. Cool 15 minutes.

While cheesecake is cooling, increase oven temperature to 475. Mix topping ingredients together and carefully spread on cheesecake. Return to oven and bake and additional 10 minutes.

Cool completely, and then, refrigerate before serving. If you must top with something, sliced fresh kiwi is ideal.
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