Actress Marilu Henner has been getting a lot of air time lately for a rare skill—some are calling it a diagnosis—known as Superior Autobiographical Memory. Henner is one of only six people in the world who are confirmed to have this gift.
She has talked about her gift for years and has recently written a book about it. The book is due out this Spring.
Henner appeared on the Today show yesterday, and maybe some other programs, in follow up to a more in-depth piece that ran on 60 Minutes last month.
I was struck in a deeply personal way upon hearing both of these accounts. I may not have Superior Autobiographical Memory, but I dare say I have something similar. Let’s call mine Excellent Autobiographical Memory. My friends tease me about the details I remember about specific days of specific years—what happened when, what day of the week an occasion fell on, what I was wearing, what song topped the charts and what was going on in the world.
The autobiographical part might seem a bit ego-centric but, as Henner does, I also recall details about other people, conversations we had long ago, what they were wearing (including in many cases, a fragrance) and, often, something about music. I can hear almost any popular song dating back to 1960 and tell you the year it came out. This isn’t superior, maybe not even excellent. But it is my thing.
I don’t know about people with Superior Autobiographical Memory, but I know the birthdays of all my friends and family, without having them written down anywhere. I know my credit card numbers and expiration dates by heart (too much online shopping perhaps?). I even remember the phone number we had when I was six (CL6-2808).
In this blog, I have shared a number of childhood memories that my family members barely remember. Often the memory is as clear as the day it happened, though it’s my memory, and not always 100 percent historically accurate. Usually I’m pretty close.
This is not to say that I have a great memory. I’ve been known to put my car keys in the medicine cabinet. I can be in mid-sentence and forget the simplest of nouns. (Humorist Dave Barry claims the nouns are the first to go.) The day before yesterday, I started out for Jazzercise and ended up at the grocery store on autopilot. Sadly, the names of rivers, mountain ranges, poets and playwrights appearing in crossword puzzles will forever elude me.
Yesterday I wrote about how dancing is considered to have a positive impact on memory. I’m dancing like crazy to keep my wallet out of the refrigerator, while my life’s DVD plays in my hotwired head.
Now where did I leave that crossword puzzle?
10 responses to “Like the corners of my mind”
I am so jealous. I severly suffer from CRS!
I have something similar. It is called Irish Autobiographical Memory. Some call it Irish Alzheimers. Can’t remember anything but my grudges;)
I always thought that was the Italians.
Got 14 years on you, and my childhood phone: EM(Emerson) 2-6373.
Plus I remember when we didn’t need that many numbers! — EM-6373
But who is the woman who greeted me warmly and gave me a hug last week at the Safeway?
I can’t remember everything and I don’t know if I want to. Somethings are too painful to carry around all of your life.
So THAT’S where I saw the statement that dancing, including Jazzercize, is good exercise for not only the body but also the brain, and started on the web route that resulted in my finding the closest Jazzercise class to my home and attending my first one this morning. When the instructor asked me how I had found them, I couldn’t remember how it had all started; it started with you! Thanks!
What a great story. I hope you enjoy Jazz as much as I do.
I know exactly where you got that gene, and it was not from me!
The first phone number I do recall, FR7-4348. Of course we had the same number through July 2006, so perhaps it doesn’t count. Also my mother taught my brother a little song to make it easier to remember his name, address and phone number as he headed off to his first day of school. I am sure all six siblings can still sing that song. With that I am signing off and deleting the title of this Word Nymph from my In Box. I have successfully replaced the Barbara Streisand song with the Brian Green 50 Afton Drive song in my cerebral IPod.
Excellent lyrical memory as well. Good by Streisand but better by Nilsson in “Everybody’s Talkin’.” Marty will know the bluegrass versions.