I was filling out the paper work for my son’s junior prom and realized that I had put something odd for his cell phone number.
I had the area code and first 3 digits, but then “3529.” Where had those numbers come from? They didn’t look right, but suddenly, for the life of me, I couldn’t be sure.
I call or text him at that number, several times a day – but it’s always with speed-dial. Still, what kind of a mother doesn’t remember her own child’s phone number?
“Those digits – 3529 – they must mean something to me,” I insisted to my husband, that night. “ But what? Are they from a license plate? An address? I know they’re not part of a credit card – so why have they stuck in my head?”
“You’re just getting older, dear,” he replied. “Nothing you can do about it.”
Then it was a word I messed up. I was in the attic, clearing out boxes of junk with the high school boy so we could look for his dad’s high school yearbook. “Sweetie, would you please hand me the, um, the thingamabob, so I can tape this box closed and get it out of here?”
He just stood there, in the middle of the attic, staring at me.
“Mom. You mean, the tape dispenser?” He spoke in his careful, talking-to-a-crazy-person voice. “Because I never heard of a – whatever-you-called-it.”
“Yes, the dispenser, of course. Hand it over, please, or we’ll never finish with this.”
Bless his heart, he was worried about me – afraid that I was sliding into senility. But I wasn’t worried. I had just read an article in The New York Times, titled, “The Older Mind May Just Be A Fuller Mind.” According to writer Benedict Carey, there might be a problem with all the studies that show our older brains slowing down. It might not be a sign of aging, at all – it might just be the result of having so many more memories to sort through, to get the answer! After all, when you’ve only met 25 people in your whole life, how hard can it be to remember a name? Versus your mother, who’s met hundreds of people each at high school; college; several jobs; and multiple PTA meetings? That’s a lot of “data mining” to do, with the same old equipment.
My son’s voice jolted me out of this reverie. “What’s this? Can I get rid of it?” He held up a three-ring binder with a cover design so faded, it was hard to make out.
“That’s it!” I yelled. “That’s the answer!”
“To what?” he asked. “My ancient history quiz?”
“No, to mine! That’s my old work directory. And remember those numbers I had stuck in my head, that I put on your junior prom paperwork by mistake? I remember now – those numbers were my own extension, at work! It’s all coming back to me now!”
“Whatever you say. Are we getting rid of it?”
“Certainly not, now that it’s reassured me I’m not crazy! What have YOU done for me, lately?”
“Well, I took 10 boxes of junk down from the attic.” Which was true, and Goodwill was quite grateful.
A few days later, I was back in the attic, looking through more of my old work files, when the phone rang. Not the cell phone I had in my pocket, but the one down in the kitchen. I managed to answer it just before it went to voice mail.
“Mom! I need you to pick me up at school right now! The bus just got back from the field trip.”
“Of course I’ll be right there, but for heavens’ sake, why didn’t you text me about this, an hour ago? Or call my cell-phone, which I always have with me?”
“It’s complicated.” Turns out that his cell phone battery had died, thanks to all the pictures he took on the trip, so he had borrowed a friend’s phone to call me. And the friend’s phone didn’t have my cell number on its speed dial.
“So what you’re telling me,” I said, after I finally got him home, “was that you didn’t remember my cell phone number any better than I remembered yours? And you, with your vastly younger brain?”
“I guess not,” he said sheepishly.
I kissed him. “That’s terrific news,” I said. “Let’s celebrate with some of that cold creamy stuff you like – whaddaya-call-it?”
“That’s the stuff.”