“Searching the Stacks”


When I was in school, many of the books I needed were in the stacks of the library and had to be retrieved by a page. This person took the slip of paper with the needed title and disappeared for a time until reappearing with the requested volume. Depending on where the book was housed, this could take from 5 to 30 minutes, and it wasn’t possible to predict the wait.

I find that my fact retrieval system lately seems to be operating in the same way. If I need information that I frequently use, it usually is immediately available to me. However, if I haven’t needed to know something for a long time, my retrieval is delayed. I imagine a little page running around my brain, going into the back recesses trying to find where something is stored. I can imagine it going,”When did she learn this and where did she stash the answer?”

Take state capitals, for instance. I learned all the capitals of the then 48 states of the U.S. when I was 10 years old. I had never been to a majority of the cities, so the capital was the only name I knew. Then I didn’t need the information for 60 years. No random person stopped me on the street to inquire about the capital of Iowa. But since my grandson is studying state capitals, he asked me the capital of North Dakota. No matter how long and hard the page searched the back nooks of my mind, he couldn’t find the answer.

Apparently, at some point, just as the library eventually discards books no one asks for any more, my brain functions to clear out space. Unfortunately there is no handy reference to let me know that no matter how hard I look, I won’t find the answer. Google to the rescue. Bismarck, not Fargo, is the capital of North Dakota. I knew that. (Once!)

14 thoughts on ““Searching the Stacks”

  1. My brain stores really weird information and often I’m not aware it has until some strange moment. One of the strangest memories my brain held on to and then regurgitated into my mind on my adult years was my first memory.

    I think I blogged about this before, about how I remembered my 2nd birthday and couldn’t understand why mom waited until late in the night to celebrate, and how she cried when I asked her about it at around 25. My biological father had not come home and did not come home for 3 days. You can take any wild guess where he was. If it involves lady parts, you are correct. Mom could not understand how I had noticed that at 2 years old, much less remembered it.

    I also remember learning to write. I remember I used to write W by writing lots of squiggley U letters and then rubbing it out until I only had 2. I remember learning to spell my name and that I could spell my legal first name (which is German, I hate it and never use it), but I could not spell my paternal surname which was just 5 letters and English!

    I also remember one time I was walking to school. I was about 3 based on the house we lived at, and a goat came out on the path to school and I was so terrified I ran home. But I didn’t want to tell Mom a goat had scared me 😂

    I remember once ironing my bed sheets because the creases annoyed me. Also 3. I dropped the iron by accident and burned a hole in the rug. Mom was not happy with me. 🤣

    I also remember the definition of geography. It was the first thing I learned in 7th grade. Geography is the study of the Earth as the home of man, and man’s effort to make a living from his environment.

    My best friend says I have elephant memory ie I never forget. She’s wrong though. I remember the past very well, but when it comes to remembering things I should do in the future I will forget if I don’t write it down or put it on a calendar! 😮

    I wonder what I’ll start to forget when I get older.


    1. Surprisingly enough I find my earliest memories are coming through crystal clear. Maybe not the capital of North Dakota, but things such as you relate. Like you, I remember emotions as well as events. I do have an extraordinary memory about real life as you seem to also.


        1. Wow! Were you badly hurt? I’ve never been bitten by a dog before. Whenever they attack I stand my ground. I was always told if you run they will chase, and if they chase, they will bite.


        2. I stood my ground and was bitten by one. I have actually been bitten three different times and I still love dogs. My father was even bitten by a rabid dog in 1945 and had to have a series of very painful shots.


        3. I’m sure there are always exceptions. So far, it’s worked for me though. But THREE times? Goodness! What kind of dogs were they?

          Wow. We don’t have rabies in Jamaica. The government exterminated it someway, somehow, ages ago. I think we may have some bats that carry it, but you would have to go out of your way to be bitten by a bat in Jamaica. I’ve never heard of anyone who was.

          Did your father have any after effects from it?


        4. A black lab?? I’ve had a black lab. I can’t imagine one biting anyone unprovoked. They’re considered a family dog! Very friendly.

          On the other hand, they’re also very protective and famously used for hunting ducks, so much so that they have webbed feet a little like ducks for swimming. They also make good drug dogs. They aren’t the typical cutesy family dog I suppose. 🤔 The doberman doesn’t surprise me.

          I’ve been attacked by pitbulls, Rottweilers, and random mutts. Never bitten though. I’ve maintained the stand your ground stance with the confidence of a Greek hero 😂 and somehow it has worked for me. The dogs realise I’m genuinely not afraid and run off.


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