It’s not that I place less importance on people, I think, than animals, but somehow, while I simply cannot dredge up a memory of someone I met or even knew quite well, decades ago, I can somehow remember the animal in their life with laser-like precision.
Honestly, I cannot tell you how I admire the millions of people who say, “You know, I may not remember a name, but I never forget a face.”
Because I forget faces all the time! And before you write me off as a victim of early-onset dementia, I will tell you that of what I speak is generally about people I haven’t seen in years – although, I must admit, I might not recognize the cashier I often see at the Bi-Lo, because I just spotted her where she has no business being, at the Post Office, and not taking my coupons or accepting my exact change.
For some reason, animals burn their memories straight into my brain and this is why, when I recently received an email asking, “Hi Pam, do you remember me? You were my first riding instructor, back in the 70’s. I had a horse named ‘Star.’ ”
Without blinking, I typed back,
“Small, bay, Arab, mare?” to which she replied, “Yes!” but I hadn’t a clue what she looked like. I remembered a pleasant little girl who used to ride the horse, but that was it. I could no more describe her hair or facial features than I could the man in the moon, whereas I could give a detailed police report, if necessary, of what Star looked like, right down to the small white patch between her liquid, brown eyes, which provided her namesake.
This has happened to me so many times that it would be comedic, if not so insulting, to others.
“Remember Rhonda, the other bridesmaid, at my wedding?” asked a girlfriend, recalling her big day sometime in the mid ‘80s.
“Rhooonda...” I mused, trying to place a face.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Pam,” my friend barked, “There were only two bridesmaids and you were one of them. Rhonda. The redhead! Surely you remember?”
“One-eyed Boston terrier?” I said, suddenly on track.
“I don’t know, maybe, anyway, I hear she moved to Venezuela last year. Met a musician, left her husband, and-”
“Whatever happened to that dog?” I interrupted, as this was a more interesting subject to me.
“I don’t know what happened to the dog! Who cares about the dog!”
“It was a cute dog,” I replied, meekly. “Had a tremor in its front legs. She used to put pencils between the toes of his front paws and it looked like he was playing the drums.”
Unapologetic as it sounds, yes, I must admit that I remembered the quavering terrier far more than the young woman of which the only other memory I have is her constant tugging at the sweetheart neckline of her crimson bridesmaid dress, in a rather self-seeking attempt to boost her décolletage. I, on the other hand, built like a bookmark, could only look on with bemusement and a touch of envy. Standing next to her, also woefully decked out in bright red, I looked like a thermometer.
But I really liked that dog.
“Oh, yeah!” I said, remembering another tid-bit.
“Finally, you remember her,” my friend said, relieved to be able to finish her story.
“Don’t you remember?” I urged. “She played a tape of Johnny Winter’s ‘Frankenstein,’ and then put that dog on her lap, with the pencils, and made it look like it was playing the drum solo from the middle of the song.”
My friend simply stared at me.
“Not during your wedding,” I quickly amended, “during the reception. And I think he peed on her bouquet.” I continued, then, catching her expression, trailed off, “probably to get even for the drum thing...”
I’m not even sure Rhonda remembers that part. Those were the days of open bar and Long Island iced teas.
So, if we’ve met in the past and I make your acquaintance, again, sometime in the future, please don’t feel offended if I can’t quite place you. It’s not that you’re not important or interesting.
I’d just rather you have whiskers.
Reach PAM STONE at firstname.lastname@example.org.