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?