Funny story: Earlier today, as I wrote myself notes and reminders and so on and so forth in the midst of a crazy-busy day, I thought of this column, which I wrote for the Dallas Morning News back in the day, and decided that I’d like to post it here.
Only to discover that I had done just that a little bit more than a year ago. And had, of course, entirely forgotten. Sigh.
As I said then: The fact is that — resist the truth as I might — I am an irredeemable birdbrain. No, you read the following (about which very little has changed in the intervening years, other than the girl’s need for a binky), and then try to think otherwise of me. I challenge you.
Recently, I was forced to come to the conclusion that, deny it as I have tried my whole life, I am, inarguably, an airhead.
Ok, I’m an intellectual snob, too, so let’s call me “absent-minded.” Like a professor, only without a teaching position. Or office hours.
I may approach it with humor, but it’s a truth I actually loathe. I’ve spent my life devising and maintaining systems by which to mask the fact of it (from myself primarily, I guess. The world’s probably caught on).
I’ve tried everything from calendars with copious notes, to lists on the door, to (and I mean this literally) keeping a running total in my head of the things I left the house with, so that I don’t leave anything behind. It can become a bit of a mess if I leave the house with something that was intended to be left behind. Like, you know, the dry cleaning.
And yet, in spite of these efforts, I am always forgetting things – objects, plans, dates. Thank God, I have yet to forget people, but my (two) children know I may forget their names. When my son was three years old, if I posed the question “What would Mommy do if she could take her head off?” he would say: “Lose it.”
I will say that, at the very least, this forgetfulness has granted me a deep faith in people. I’ve left my backpack in a cab in Istanbul, my camera in a store in Tel Aviv, and (my personal favorite) my sister-in-law’s pearls in a taxi in Washington, DC. Around the world, people have consistently saved me from myself and returned these items to me, often going out of their way to do so. The kindness of strangers, indeed.
On a recent morning, a stranger – a county official with whom I had an appointment in order to appeal my property taxes, a date you might think I’d want to keep – called to ask where I was. Not to reprimand me for blowing her off, but to suggest with a smile in her voice that perhaps I should make my way down to her offices.
Then, on the way there, I drove nine blocks the wrong direction, because, after living in my town for more than seven years – five of which were spent three blocks up from the address to which I was headed on the same street – I got confused about where the north/south demarcation starts on our grid.
As I started to compose the “I’m so sorry for being even later” in my head, I heard myself thinking “I don’t want to seem so disorganized,” and it hit me: I am. I am just that disorganized.
Anyone who has ever: had her babysitter look for her wallet so that she can get on a plane; left that same wallet at home on her way to a store 40 minutes away; forgotten her debit card in the hands of the gas station attendant, is a complete space-cadet. Bona fide.
When I became pregnant with my son seven years ago, having just moved to a new place, new friends kindly chalked my muddle-headedness up to pregnancy, and then to post-partum, and then to exhaustion. And then a second pregnancy. With two kids running around the house, they now say, who can remember anything? You lose a piece of your brain with each placenta.
I’m happy to leave them their delusions, and I will certainly concede that all of those things have not helped. I will even admit, with some genuine pride, that when it comes to the kids, I’m mostly on top of who needs what and has to go where (even if I don’t, as I say, reliably remember what we’ve called them). It’s my own stuff that goes missing.
Seriously, I take some comfort from that. Because there are days when it feels like all of this means that really, underneath my carefully constructed façade, I’m out of control. One misplaced piece of paper from the unraveling of my entire life.
But if I can keep it together for my children – old What’s-Their-Names – I figure that will have to be enough. Just admit the truth, accept who you are, and move on. I can make it without my coat; my daughter, on the other hand, would be lost without her binky.
Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living outside of Chicago. As far as she can remember.