The Freezer That Rang and Other Tales of Memory Loss

Where did her cell phone go?

Sheryl Kraft
Photograph: Gordon Beall

But you know what the biggest problem was? By the time I finished my reading, I had forgotten what I read on that first day – even the second day – those first 40 pages ago.
I’d stride into class, arrange my notebook and two black fine-point pens in front of me, position my steaming hot Venti Starbucks to my right and hunker down in my seat, ready to nourish my brain, anxious to spew forward my brilliant revelations. The discussion would begin – and what a discussion it was! Only I had NO CLUE as to what anyone was talking about. Was I in the wrong class? (The sprawling campus was still unfamiliar to me.) No, the faces were familiar (in fact, they were, for the most part, beautifully unlined, smooth and youthful faces at that) but the words, thoughts and conclusions were anything but.
After the first few classes that rendered me mute by virtue of my newly-discovered sieve-like brain, I realized I had to change my ways. It was time for some pre-emptive measures. I began jotting down my thoughts on index cards as I read. (Never mind that the first few times, I forgot to bring them to class with me. It somehow helped cement the thoughts better in my memory).  And when I read, I made sure to block out all possible distractions – I turned off the phone and my email and sat downstairs, far away from the refrigerator or any other sources of temptation. I even set a timer for one hour so that I would force myself not to move and do something else until the bell went off. (Why did I suddenly have the urge to vacuum instead of read??) Oh, yes, I almost forgot – Post-it notes to help me remember random things that tumbled into my brain as I read – like phone calls I had to return  and birthday cards to send.
Some other things I tried to help build my memory were following a routine (I’d try to sit down and read at the same time each day); writing everything on my calendar (never would I again trust that I’d remember important things like doctor appointments after missing one that I waited five months for).  I made sure to keep up with my exercise schedule, as I knew that exercise helps build stronger brain connections and helps strengthen your memory. And here’s the biggest one: I tried to avoid, when I could, the thing that always gets me into trouble—multi-tasking. I do think a lot of us confuse memory loss with the consequences of multi-tasking. After all, think about all the times you’re juggling so many things at once that it’s just impossible to do any one of those things without the other ones suffering. It’s like cooking on a six-burner stove; something is bound to get forgotten and burned to a crisp.
As I started to say earlier, I managed to lose my cell phone. One minute it was in my hand and the next – pffft – like magic, it was gone. I spent the good part of a day looking for it, checking every possible place I could have left it – the car, my pocket, the closet, the bathroom, even the garbage…twice each time. I tried calling my own number, hoping to be led to the missing phone like Hansel and Gretel tried with breadcrumbs. But like the hungry birds that ate the breadcrumbs, something equally hungry devoured my phone. Finally resigned to the fact that I’d have to buy a new one, I decided to make a special dinner that night. After all, my family had all been so supportive of my attempts at shutting out the world to do my never-ending stream of homework. They deserved a great home-cooked meal; a nice change from their junk food dinners. 
As I opened the freezer to take out some shrimp, I heard a familiar ring. My phone! Mystified, I frantically dug through the bags of frozen berries and bread until I found it. And then I remembered. I must have absentmindedly released the cell phone from my grip the day before when I returned from food shopping. While I was loading the freezer with my new purchases, rushing to get downstairs to read, the dog began to bark.
A cute little girl was at the door, selling Girl Scout cookies. How could I resist the S’mores, my all-time favorites? Hold on, I said, let me get my checkbook out of my bag. Somewhere between the freezer and the front door, to my pocketbook and back again, my cell phone dropped from my grip, ending up in the deep freeze.
Cell phone scampi, anyone?

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