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Memories last a lifetime — if you can remember them

Kate Langbroek, Sunday Style

IT’S FUNNY how memory works. 

There have been myriad times in my life when I have consciously thought: “Remember this moment,” as sunlight filtered through sky-high trees onto a cascading waterfall, or my beloved husband and I have been imperfectly perfect. To be honest, it’s hard to tell what specific memories I’ve tried to lock away, because the fact is I have rarely succeeded. So I mainly have to imagine what I have forgotten, which is a strange conundrum. 

Slabs of my brain’s prefrontal lobe have let some truly stunning memories dissolve; people I have met and places I have been. Because of the lack of memory of these things, you understand, I can’t be 100 per cent certain of this, but occasionally I will flip through a pile of photos or be presented with a hark back by some friends, and it will be stellar.

I don’t want to brag, but I have some A-grade, top-shelf, unforgettable memories — if only I could remember them, or I knew exactly where they have been stored. Even the births of my four babies have blurred into one. (Which one had the pouty mouth? Which one was the girl?)

And yet, my brain does remember lots of other stuff. Bizarre, unhelpful, freaky little facts. For instance, I remember canola was sometimes called “rapeseed”, and that its name was changed in a marketing ploy designed to make the oil more popular. That’s a stupid thing to retain; yet, even now, it makes my skin crawl slightly as I edge past bottles in the stupormarket.

Why is it that I painstakingly saved my children’s baby teeth in different ring boxes, but at some point couldn’t remember which colour contained whose? Now, instead of being the keeper of a clutch of charming — albeit eccentric — keepsakes, I’m just a hoarder with a bunch of creepy teeth. 

It’s really faces that do me in, however. Sometimes I just can’t assemble the features of a person’s face into anything that looks memorable to me. Even when I’m looking at them, I know I’m going to forget them. When I’m watching a film, I am the annoying person who has to ask: “Is that the baddie who blew the bus up?” because I just can’t tell some faces apart.

Several years ago, a friend whose girlfriend was studying psychiatry told me it’s a real thing, this inability to remember faces. I think it’s called “facial dysmorphia” (of course, I can’t fully remember), but whatever you call it, it’s annoying because I work with a lot of people, and I know even more, and they would like to be recognised when I see them. Also, I must come off as kind of rude.

I was with my lovely friend and long-time producer, Sacha, when, during a brief break in proceedings, she saw someone she used to work with and darted over to say hello. Her mate was standing with another guy, to whom I gave a friendly nod. In retrospect, I think he gave me a slightly strange look, but at the time I was just waiting for Sach to finish her chat.

When Sach wrapped up, I casually asked her: “Who was that?” 

She stared at me disbelievingly.

“Well,” she said. “One of them was Warren, who I used to work with in New Zealand.” I nodded. She paused.

“And the other one was Donnie. Your ex-boyfriend. Who you lived with for six years.”


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