Who Sticks Out in Your Memory?

Tami* texts to tell me that that her pediatrician — from when she was a child — passed away. I always thought he was like Mr. Rogers when I was a kid. Turns out, he was. 

Her text hits me in that tender spot, the one usually reserved for sweet flash mob marriage proposals and how I feel when I hear Take on Me. It’s a mix between joyful reminiscence and bittersweet nostalgia. 

When I think back across the people I’ve met in life — whether they were crushes in high school or customers buying a used Sue Grafton novel — what stands out is how many people I can’t remember. Sometimes I read old diaries where I am “railing at the moon” (my personal phrase for fruitless venting) about some boy who somehow broke my heart, and I am at a loss as who he even was. There are hundreds, nay thousands, of people I made cappuccinos for who came and went. 

Which makes the people who stick with us stand out even more. 

And it’s not simply the obvious folk we remember, like your soon-to-be husband, or that one really funny boss who you always had to stop from eating a Costco-sized jar of pretzels. There’s the one customer at the bookshop who looked up while counting her cash and said, “You’re so beautiful,” or the doctor who was really just a nice man and a good doctor — and yet there they are in your mind, with the words they said and the feeling the left you un-erasable. You could read about them in your journal, or see their obituary, and know exactly who they were. 

I don’t know why some people will forever be a memory, and others won’t. Tami suggests there’s something to learn from those who stay with us. I like to imagine that it’s because their memory will connect us to someone important later. Maybe you get in a cab in Portland and find out your driver’s neighbor was your eccentric German teacher, and you get a safe ride to McMenamins. Or maybe your junior high crush discovers your business online and asks you write his wedding vows. 

Whatever the reason, sometimes it’s nice to think about the strangers who remember us, and we might have connected to them in some meaningful way. 

Here’s Dr. Levi’s obituary, as photographed by Tami’s mom: 


*Tami is one of our Muses here at Vow Muse!