Memory Building Blocks For Remembering Memories

goodhumorplaytruckI’ve got a memory like one of those bowls with all the holes that you use to drain spaghetti, although I generally just use the pan lid, because why dirty another dish?

It’s getting worse as I get older. To help me remember important information, I’ve developed a couple of handy tricks.  I call these the Memory Building Blocks:

  • Kiddius Memorius

Things learned as a kid stay with you much longer than things learned as an adult, and there’s a scientific reason for that.

The brain has a little section called…called… let’s call it the Kiddius Memorius.  This part soaks up memories like one of those really absorbent wipers you use in the kitchen, and which they now say you shouldn’t use because they’re germ-magnets so all you’re doing is pushing the germs around the counter, instead of getting rid of them.  When we become adults, our bodies produce a hormone that shuts the front door on the Kiddius Memorius lobe and locks all that information safely inside.

It’s because of the Kiddius Memorius lockdown that, when I’m a drooling, diaper-clad nursing home resident, unable to remember my own name or what year it is, I will still remember the entire air-drum solo to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, and playing “doctor” with Bobby Hightower behind the garage when I was 6.

  • Total Sensory Immersion

If you rely on just one of your senses to remember things, you’re doomed to failure.  The secret to getting information firmly stuck in your brain is to use all your senses, something I call Total Sensory Immersion.  That’s how I prepared for tests in college.

First I read my notes  – sight.  Then I wrote my notes out longhand – touch.  Finally, I read the notes out loud  – taste and hearing.  I repeated this regimen throughout the night, pacing back and forth, and by the next morning the fifth sense, smell, was also fully engaged – the horrible smell of my dirty, all-nighter self.

To this day, a whiff of stinky armpit sets off an involuntary response, “Phew! Smells like a Stats final.”

  • Potsiefication

Songs are always easier to remember than dry facts and numbers.  That’s just how the human brain is programmed.  Setting information to music increases the rate of retention to the…to the…that little number that you write a little up and to the right side of another number.

This is a scientific fact that was proven by Potsie in that Happy Days’ episode where he was cramming for a test about the heart, and everybody was wearing 1950s clothes but had 1979 hair.

  • Drooling Dog Training

People can be trained to associate one thing with another.  For example, when I hear a bell ring, I immediately think of ice cream because of the trucks that drove around our neighborhood in the summer when I was a kid.

This technique was invented by a guy who rang a bell every time he gave his dog some kibble. After a while the dog started drooling as soon as he heard the bell ring, even if there wasn’t any food.  Because of this scientist’s landmark research, the technique was named after him: Drooling Dog Training.

Now that we are familiar with the Memory Building Blocks, let’s look at a real life situation in which I use the whole spectrum of techniques.  See if you can recognize them in action.

The Problem:

My parents moved from 909 N. Lincoln to 5551 Stoney Creek Drive more than 6 years ago, and I still can’t get their new address to stick in my brain.

 Memory Building Blocks Solution:

Our old street was named after Abraham Lincoln.  We are conditioned to associate President Lincoln with chopping down a cherry tree because of lessons learned in childhood.  Cherry pits are sometimes referred to as stones, which are, by definition, stoney.

Cherry trees grow in orchards, which are found in the country.  When I think of the country, I invariably start humming a favorite song by Three Dog Night, “Out In The Country” because I used to lie on the couch and listen to their album over and over again after high school dances, especially if the cute guy I was crushing on didn’t ask me to dance, in which case I’d cry as I sang along.  This song says the country is where “the rivers like to run” and a small river is a creek.

If you want to visit a cherry orchard out in the country, your best bet is to drive there.  Otherwise, it could be a really long and sweaty hike.

Last year a movie came out called “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”.  I didn’t see it, but I bet those vampires were evil.  The master of evil is the devil, and his sign is 666. But vampires aren’t quite as evil as the devil, maybe only 5/6th as evil, so their sign might be 555.

President Lincoln probably found it pretty lonely at the top. I imagine being a vampire is also rather lonely.  I think Three Dog Night said it best in their classic song, “One (1) is the Loneliest Number.”

See how each piece of the puzzle is carefully, skillfully interwoven to knit the whole memory together?

I reinforce these lessons by subtly working their address into the conversation each time I call my parents.

I might say,

“Hi, Dad, located at 5551 Stoney Creek Drive.  What did the doctor say at your last appointment?  Does he want you to go for more blood tests, not at 5551 Stoney Creek Drive, of course, but at the hospital?”

 Or,

 “Hi, Mom! How’s it shakin’ there at 5551 Stoney Creek Drive?  Did you know I used to play doctor with Bobby Hightower behind the garage at 909 N. Lincoln, but NOT at 5551 Stoney Creek Drive?  Because you just moved there a couple of years ago?”

As I sit here, writing 5551 Stoney Creek Drive over and over again on a pad of paper, then licking the paper while ringing a little bell, I am confident I will have my parents’ new address indelibly burned into my brain in no time.  Soon, when asked where they live, I won’t miss a beat before I blurt out – 6663 Crying Vampire Orchard!

I hope you find the Memory Building Blocks help you as much as they have helped me.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to dash.  I suddenly have an uncontrollable craving for one of those red, white and blue ice cream bars in the shape of a rocket.

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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79 Responses to Memory Building Blocks For Remembering Memories

  1. Elyse says:

    Ummm, Peg? I’m afraid I found the fatal flaw. George Washington chopped down the cherry tree. Perhaps you can think of the creek in which folks washed their clothes instead?

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  2. The Waiting says:

    I am forever going to equate 555 with the mark of a vampire. I’m not even a kid, but I will remember that.

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  3. Don’t give us it all at once like this Peg, it’s too much, by the time I got to the end of the piece, I had forgotten the beginning. Actually I’m thinking you could turn it into a money-making scheme. ‘The Pegoleg 12 step building block program to improving your memory’, ya know? Obviously I wouldn’t have to pay because it was my idea, just the others.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I thought about that, VJ. But then I forgot. Thanks for the reminder. If I go ahead with this scheme, you’ll definitely get a discounted rate on the 5 easy payments.

      Like

  4. mistyslaws says:

    Great. Now I’m craving kibble.

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  5. Al says:

    My Kiddius Memorius is swirling with the memory of the Good Humor truck. I can see it, feel it, hear it, smell it and taste it as it pulls up to 42 Pool Rd. Or was it 310 Lormore St? Damn! Let’s see, 310 divided by 42…no wait….maybe it was the pool on Lormore St….. Come to think of it, they might have been Eskimo Pies from the market. Never mind.

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  6. Back in the good old days, township planners and developers named streets after dead presidents, preferably the more important ones like Lincoln and Washington, leaving Taft and Harding for Battleships and middle schools. While Honest Abe probably never set foot on your childhood street and certainly never played post office behind the garages there, it was easy for kids to recall their street, because there was a picture of him on the penny and they had his birthday off from school. Today’s developers try to get all fancy and cute with street names, trying to evoke some sort of bucolic country setting for what is in reality, just another street in just another development. No offense to your parents, I’m sure their current abode is all that and a bag of low-sodium, baked chips – but I’m willing to wager that it’s been more than a century since there were any stony creeks anywhere near their home. Stony Creek Drive is just a forgettable street name – it’s not your fault! If those developers had chosen “Crying Vampire Orchard” or “Flatulent Hound Trail” you’d have no such memory problem.

    I would suggest putting their new address into your smart phone, but there are good odds that you’ll forget how to access it after a few days anyway.

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    • pegoleg says:

      So true. I’ll never forget visiting an aunt & uncle’s new house that was being built in one of those new-fangled suburbs 40 years ago. Theirs was one of 3 houses in a sea of new, curving, concrete streets in the middle of an ocean of cornfields in the middle of nowhere. The street name? Whispering PIne Hills. Nary a hill or pine (or any tree, for that matter) anywhere in sight.

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  7. Weep. I’m getting older too. And fuzzier. And not just in the brain, but on my face, too. TMI? 😉

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  8. I know what you mean about remembering M&Ds new address. I think I’ve got the phone number in recall memory mode. Need to try out your handy-dandy methods for all the new stuff I’ve got to remember at the new job. Now, where’s the ice cream truck?

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    • pegoleg says:

      NO clue about their phone number. I’m not even going to try.

      The good news is, after marinating in this post for a week, I think I’ve finally got their address memorized!

      Like

  9. PS – playing doctor with Bobby Hightower – wouldn’t that be 6th grade, not 6 years old???

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  10. Pleun says:

    Wow, that sounds like a lot to do to remember anything… When I read the title I took it very literally, you know paint stuff on building blocks to remember that stuff and then build a wall/fence/shed or outhouse. Then all you have to do is look at your wall/fence/shed or outhouse and you’ll remember. What do you think? Is this because I am DIY-ing too much lately 😉

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That’s a great idea! When Peg-Co gets this product off the ground, we’ll include actual blocks in the kit for 5 easy, low, low payments. For your help, I’ll give you 3% off!

      Like

  11. lisaspiral says:

    Forget Mom and Dad’s new address I have a hard enough time remembering MINE! I used to get new checks right away so I could whip out my check book and look up the new address and phone number. Who uses checks anymore? With programable phones at least I don’t have to remember those pesky phone numbers.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You can’t remember your OWN address? I’ll have the Peg-Co engineers put it into overdrive to get our kit to market stat – you need help!

      I still use checks – one of a handful out there who still do. People stare at me like I’m a dinosaur.

      Like

  12. Wow, Peg, I was totally with you on every point. Until I got to your line “especially if the cute guy I was crushing on didn’t ask me to dance, in which case I’d cry as I sang along.” Suddenly I was back in high school again, crying along to Bryan Adams “Straight from the Heart” and pining for my unrequited love, John (from the Ex-Lax Incident of 1984)

    Also, I can’t wait to use your licking technique next week when classes start back up. Mmm mmm….this pharmacology textbook tastes just like knowledge!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You won’t go wrong with the Total Sensory Immersion study method. It worked like a charm for me! Except for an alarming tendency to fall asleep in the middle of important tests due to sleep-deprivation.

      And Potsie’s functions of the heart song is perfect for you. Start singing and dancing around the house immediately.

      Good luck with the new school year! I know you’ll do great.

      Like

  13. I don’t remember ever having much of a memory. My wife tries to help me with that by suggesting various associations, etc. (problem is I can never remember those associations, either).
    Also ‘Smells like a Stats final’ is one of my favorite Nirvana songs.

    Like

  14. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I live with a Mom who has trouble remembering a lot of stuff, except for the tunes that go with “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and “How Much is That Doggy in the Window.” I want forgetfulness desperately because those two tunes are killing me. Frankly, I just write most stuff down these days, and then forget where I put the notes.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Oh my. Those 2 songs are brain-worms of epic proportions. You have my sympathy.

      I’ve been wondering how things were getting along with your mom. Must be a wonderfully mixed blessing. Hang in there!

      Like

  15. To study, I used to write out my notes, too. But I never licked them. I could have had straight As!

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  16. So Bobby Hightower’s blog is true? Wow.

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  17. For the love of God, use the strainer to drain the water from the spaghetti noodles not the lid!!

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  18. pattisj says:

    I was going to leave a comment, but can’t remember what it was.

    Like

  19. List of X says:

    Oh God, now I’m going to remember your parents address forever.
    By the way, 555 used to be the first three digits of every phone number in every movie.

    Like

  20. Go Jules Go says:

    I’ve completely forgotten how to leave clever comments, but this really, REALLY made me giggle.

    Heaven help me if my parents ever move.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You just wait until they move – it totally messes yu up. I’m not even going to bother trying to learn their phone number, although I doubt I’ll ever forget the number when I was a kid.

      Like

  21. I did the same thing with my notes in college, the whole Total Sensory Immersion thing. But instead of reading the notes out loud, I used to lick them.

    Like

  22. dorannrule says:

    Can you remember the last thing you forgot? I forgot my friend was waiting at a restaurant to have lunch with me. Wait. Was that the last thing I forgot? Could you please publish a 12 Step program with easier to remember steps? Maybe you could sponsor a Retreat for Remembering if people could remember to attend. I do remember my first phone number. It only had 5 digits. This is a hilarious post!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You forgot and left you friend waiting at the restaurant? Ouch!

      I remember our 5-digit phone number. Then we went to 7. Now it has taken me years to remember to dial the whole, friggin’ 10 digits.

      Like

  23. Just got home from a week away and I thank you for making me laugh out loud (my husband looked at me wondering what the heck was wrong with me). I needed this to get over my depression of being back in reality mode!! I was picturing you talking to your dad on the phone repeating their address. So funny, I’m still laughing! 🙂

    Like

  24. You mean the string tied around my finger, it won’t work? It has been there for 20 years. I don’t know why, though. But I am sure I can find the note I wrote to remind me.

    Like

  25. Another wonderful post full of truth and laughter. We moved to our current address over 2 years ago, and I still have trouble remembering the address; the street numbers are so close to the street numbers from the old house I get them mixed up.

    Like

  26. k8edid says:

    At least your parents told you their new address when they moved (sob….sniff, sniff).

    Like

  27. bronxboy55 says:

    The ice cream truck was the highlight of every summer day. It turned us into screaming maniacs. But how did taste enter into it when you read your notes out loud? Are you one of those people who can taste words?

    Like

  28. susielindau says:

    I feel your brain drain. It seems I suffer from a similar condition. Now I can’t get your parent’s address out of my head!!!

    Like

  29. You are on to something here. Association. Um. I was going to say something quite profound or silly, but it totally escapes me. Maybe it will come to me at freaking 3:00 am when I will sit bolt upright and say “Oh yeah! That’s what I was going to say to good old Peg! Brilliant!”

    3:05 AM: Colander. 🙂

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I had to look at that word for 10 minutes before my brain translated what it meant and I did the “I coulda had a V-8” forehead slap. Meet you here again tomorrow, 3am?

      Like

  30. Those bowls with the holes are a pain in the butt to clean as well. Stuff gets stuck in the holes and then you have a whole new set of problems. The lid works for me.
    Sorry, I got side tracked. The Happy Days clip you posted had the bug in the corner from the TV station I used to work for which sent me on a journey through YouTube to find out how you would have found one from there. If I am not mistaken you are in the US (maybe I am mistaken) and that is just a small Canadian station. Then I forgot how I got started looking at Happy Days clips.
    So…what were we talking about?

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