Thursday, March 15, 2007

Odd Things Rattling around in My Memory

Abraham LincolnHow many of you had to memorize things in school? It seems to be a skill that's slowly slipping from public education but here's my list of things I can still recite from memory 20 years later.

1. The Gettysburg Address. Does every school child memorize "Four score and seven years ago"? I memorized it in fifth grade and can still say it with drama. "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here." Did Lincoln suspect two hundred years later kids would be memorizing his words?

2. Bach's Two-Part Invention No. 4 in D Minor. I took piano lessons for a dozen or so years and had to memorize pieces for competitions each spring. The only piece I can still play from memory is this one though the fingers aren't in as good shape as they used to be. I was never very good at Bach anyway, too controlling. Chopin was more my thing.

3. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution. "We the people in order to form a more perfect union . . . " Okay now here's where this post gets just plain silly. You know where I picked this up from? Watching Schoolhouse Rock during Saturday morning cartoons. It's hard not to say it without singing the jingle that goes along with it. I didn't sing all the words correctly until I actually read the preamble in high school and figured out what all those words like "domestic tranquility" really were.

4. Macbeth's speech from Act V scene V. "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow . . ." Loved the play--my favorite play by the Bard because it's dark and creepy and short. I had to memorize this and other lines and can pull it out when the need arises. For example, "Out damn'd spot! Out I say!" is good for when you're doing laundry.

5. Hamlet's speech from Act III scene I. "To be or not to be" but then who doesn't have this one down? Not too impressive I admit.

6. Shakespeare's sonnet #18. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . ." Pretty but again, not impressive. Another high school English memorization assignment.

7. "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning." John Donne is my favorite. There's none better and this poem is his best. I can still remember sitting in Mr. Wright's 12-grade English class studying it and being wowed. Memorized it that week and still can whip it out at parties. Okay maybe not at parties, but it's good nonetheless.

8. Various scriptures. 36 years of religion and you can't help but pick up a scripture here and there. I have a few I can quote if necessary, though be sure to check that I got the reference right.

9. The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Oh this one will impress you. I had to memorize it during English 251 with Ms. Eloise Bell. In middle English. I sound so cool saying it, it's a beauty. "Whan that aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of march hath perced to the roote."

10. "Le Pont Mirabeau" by Gillaum Apollinaire. Had to memorize this for high school French with Mrs. Collins and never liked it. French poetry seemed to be a downer for me back then. She made the whole class each student pick a poem and memorize it then enter the city recital competition. I didn't win but here I am still saying "Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne La joie venait toujours après la peine."

11. Phone numbers. This is totally random but I'm good with phone numbers. I'd prove it to you and list some here but their owners might not appreciate that.

12. Any and all lyrics to Beatles songs. I grew up on 60s music--you might say I was raised on Beatles and Cream but I have pretty much any Beatles song at my beck and call. The Fab Four were an especial favorite with my parents though it's telling that my father's favorite album is the White Album with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" as best song and my mother's favorite is Hard Day's Night with"Norwegian Wood" as her favorite song.

My favorites? Best Album: Sgt. Peppers and Best Song: "A Day in the Life." Though I distinctly remember my father tweaking my mother by loudly and gutturally singing on Saturday mornings: "Why don't we do it in the road?" just to hear her squeal "Mel!"

Best lyrics? "Maxwell Silver's Hammer," "Rocky Raccoon," "Lovely Rita," "When I'm 64" and of course "I Am the Walrus."

13. Various arias. I think we've established that if you set anything to music I've got it in the memory banks forever. Highlights include: "La donna e mobile" from Rigoletto, "Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso" from Le Nozze de Figaro or "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" from Carmen. You may not appreciate my notes, but the words are there.

Now having listed all these things that I can't seem to get out of my brain you may wonder how a ding-a-ling like me could forget something as obvious as her own child.

I'm coaching a girls volleyball team of which Grace is a member. Saturday was our second game and full of nervous anxiety I left promptly at 9:20. It wasn't until Grace showed up red and out of breath from jogging half a mile in frigid temperatures that I realized that I'd forgotten my daughter. Brought the volleyballs but forgot my girl. Great. Some coach/mother I am.

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42 comments:

my4kids said...

You are much better at memory then I am. We may have had to memorize those but can't for the life of me remember any. I have a hard time even remembering bible verses and grew up in church memorizing them! Now numbers and birthdays I can remeber those! Also kids, yep I've forgotten them on occasion also

my4kids said...

Also thanks for writing me back. I have lots of questions about Alaska but have to figure out exactly how to ask.

christine said...

I had to memorize a Shakespearean sonnet in its entirety for my English lit exam:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Loralee Choate said...

My children go to a charter school with an amazing poetry cirriculum. They memorize a poem every two weeks.

Uisce said...

if I did memorize anything as a child, I wasn't very good at it. I mean, I don't seem to remember them now! happy TT, mine's up!

Robin said...

Your memories are much more intellectual than mine! Mine are more along the lines of the entire Bat of of Hell album and the odd Omar Khayyam poem.

Heather said...

This is so funny! Did you go to my HS? We also had to memorize the prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English (which I still remember well) and Shakespearean Sonnets. My friend performed that same momologue from Lady MacBeth for a contest once, too. I have many, many songs stuck in my head and my kids often ask how I know the words to everything. I am also terrible at math, but memorize phone numbers and addresses with lightning speed.

MC Milker said...

Hilarious- I was beginning to feel inferior after reading all the things you said you could still remember - I'm glad you have a human side too ! ;-)

Angela/SciFiChick said...

I'm impressed! Especially with the phone numbers one.. LOL
I know mine and my parents' (only because it hasn't changed in over 20 years).. that's it. Thank goodness cell phones have phone books.

Carmen said...

I can remember most anything put to music. I could sing you random theme songs from just about any TV show, but can't remember to lock my door. Duh.

Damozel said...

I still remember the prologue from the Canterbury Tales too, but the rest is all gone..good for you to have all that rattling round.

jchevais said...

French literature in general is a serious downer. Can't stand the stuff... ;-)

UKZoe said...

I can do the balcony scene from romeo and Juliet, a poem about Abraham and Sarah, in a broad northern English accent, and the whole of psalm 91. But that's about it.

Author Mom DogNut said...

Wow! Totally impressive!!
I have trouble remembering a grocery list! :)

Christina said...

I always loved Maxwell's Silver Hammer!

A chuisle said...

hahaha, what a wonderfully setup post!!! didn't see the end coming!

as an actor, i've had to memorize a ridiculous amount of stuff. and therefore, ironically, forget all of it. it's a strange thing but i've talked to other actors and have found that i'm not alone in this. which i was happy to hear b/c i thought i was nuts. i'm always so impressed by people (like yourself) that can retain everything.

Angela James said...

I also had to memorize another bit from Shakespeare. "All the world's a stage, and all the men women merely players..." and so forth. It was seventh grade English and I did it perfect on the test. The English teacher accused me of cheating! I was livid (clearly, since I still remember it, lol).

Lisa Milton said...

It appears my education was lacking - I don't think we memorized much of anything. But as soon as you mentioned the U.S. Constitution preamble, I started singing along with you. I've been trying to *say* it this morning and can't - the jingle is just too catchy!

FRIDAY'S CHILD said...

I still do remember our Literature class where we were made to memorize so many but can't do them now.
Mine is up too.

Stephanie said...

You still have that all memorized? I am much more the cram to memorize and forget it type!

The one thing that does stick with me is songs. It amazes me how many 80's I can sing right along even if I haven't heard them for years. Often I stop singing b/c I didn't realize how bad the lyrics were!

volleyball story - ROFL

Melissa R. Garrett said...

Okay, now I think you are just bragging! ;-)

I am good with phone numbers too. I can still recall our number in Seattle. I was four years old!

scribbit said...

Sounds like I'm not the only English major out there. Mathematical equations? Gone--but those lines I had to memorize are stuck.

And a chuisle--I've totally wondered how actors do it, memorizing all those lines because I think my brain has a critical mass that has been reached and I can't memorize anything else. It's as if I've lost the ability once I reached 30 to memorize. Except maybe phone numbers.

They say memory is like a muscle . . . needing exercise and all that.

JAM said...

Awww Yeeeah! School House Rock baby! I cannot recite the preamble to the Constution without my mind trying to force on my mouth the pacing of that song from School House Rock. Several years ago Lovely Wife bought them on DVD. They're a great mixture of knowledge and nostalgia for those of us who remember them.

I am a classical music illiterate. My parents only had one of those Best Loved Classical Songs type albums, so all the classical music I recognize the tune of is either from that easy listening album or from Bug Bunny cartoons. I know, I can't help being such a classy guy. I know nothing about the composers nor the titles of the pieces of music.

I loved, and still love John Donne.

I remember the lyrics, artists and where I was the first time I heard certain songs. My parents were more Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, while my older Sister and Brother were the Beatles, Osmonds, and Pink Floyd fans. I have such a twisted knowledge of lyrics because of their tastes...

I still remember childhood addresses, childhood friend's phone numbers from the late 60s and early 70s. I like being able to remember numbers and math easily though. It's much more useful to me than remembering the lyrics to hundreds of songs.

I'll shut up now. This was a really cool T13.

Amy W said...

I remember things I had to memorize for the fraternity I was in at Tech, but that's it. Pretty impressive!

J said...

Does anyone remember the episode of Gilligan's Island, when they did Hamlet? I can't think of that line without singing it in my head...both:
"They say to be, or not to be, that is the question that I ask of thee..."

and...

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be, do not forget, stay out of debt..."

HA! I know, I'm totally a loser.

I've memorized much Shakespeare and so on, but sadly, I have forgotten it all. Sigh. Love me some Rocky Racoon, though, and any other Beatles song that might be around. LOVE it.

J said...

Here's Gilligan with Hamlet...gotta love this modern age sometimes, huh? :)

http://youtube.com/watch?v=OO2eEwoqzX4

Schelle said...

I was named after the Beatles song, Michelle ;) were you?

I, too, have a long list of English Lit stored in my long-term memory... Wordsworth, Keats and TS Eliot seem to stick best... and I still carry around a smattering of Jane Austen...

You know how songs or advertisements can get stuck on endless replay in your head? These days, for me, it's the children's books I read to Wombat. I find myself repeating the entire text of his books over and over and over again! I guess it helps when I'm 'reading' to him, because I can show him the pictures and I never have to look at the text!

Pieces said...

As soon as I saw the words "We the people" the schoolhouse rock song started in my mind.

Don't even get me started on conjunction junction.

Babystepper said...

Wow! You have an amazing memory! I know what you mean about setting things to music. My little guy loves Schoolhouse Rock. We bought the collected works off amazon.com this spring.

Leslie said...

Michelle, I think you are the blogger with the biggest brain on my blogroll and it's filled with so much educational stuff.

I know all the words to Ice Ice Baby.

L^2 said...

Great list. I have all sorts of random things like that in my memory too. There's an inordinant amount of music from flute lessons and band classes still stuck in my head. There's also tons of physics equations rattling around in there...
Happy TT! :-)

scribbit said...

Okay physics equations???

I still can't remember the area of a circle formula. I didn't do so well in math or science though I'm surrounded by engineers over here. My Dad is one, brothers, they're all doing differential equations for fun. Odd.

Jen said...

I have flute pieces that I can whip off still...badly, but they're there. And in 5th grade I had to memorize the Jabberwocky. I can still do most of it, and with a little review can nail it all. Must teach A.

laughing mommy said...

The laundry quote from #4 totally made me laugh!

Christie said...

hahah! that's too funny, coach! i coached volleyball for a while too, love it! wow, you've retained a lot of it, that's impressive! probably the two things that I remember most are "The Eagle" poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson that I memorized in the second grade.. "He clasped the craig with crooked hands..." And I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet in high school, and still continually recite Juliet's monologue.. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any name would smell as sweet. So Romeo would.. were he not Romeo called..." well you get the drift. haha. great tt!!!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

The Tour Manager forgot to pick Spike up two weeks ago from a friend's house. Oops! I'm still not done giving him grief about that.

Neat stuff in your brain. I like the music especially, go figure. :)

kim said...

When I was in high school I was in a special class that was supposed to foster creativity. Our class project was to turn Canterbury Tales into a musical, which we performed with the drama club at the local & state drama competition. We didn't win, in part because one judge was really miffed that we didn't have period footwear. But that's all I remember about Canterbury Tales. :)

I don't remember most of what I "memorized" in school ~ I have excellent "medium-term" memory, which apparently is just long enough to pass a test. :)

soccer mom in denial said...

I taught my kids "We the People" when they were 2. There is something too cute to hear toddlers sing "for ourselves and our posterity."

Terrific list. Something to be said about memorizing.

she said...

Schoolhouse Rock - "I'm just a bill, I'm only a bill, and I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill". Man, that takes me back a long way!

My university roomie and I used to have a not-so Shakespearean version of the "to be, or not to be..." speech on our answering machine on nights we went out to the bar.

Ah, thanks for the memories.

Robin said...

I'm now sitting here simultaneously humming "We The People", "Conjunction Junction", and "Hanker for a Hunk of Cheese" (does anyone besides me remember that one?). Gotta love Schoolhouse Rock, though I admit the simultaneous humming thing is coming off a bit strangely.

Sara said...

Isnt it funny what sticks in there? I'm the queen of trivia around here, mostly useless things no one will ever need. Not USEFUL stuff like the Gettysburg address...

Guadagnare Online said...

Very Nice post man!