Monday, December 20, 2010

And the Winner is...

In college I received an extremely eclectic education, which is a fancy way of saying I was both lazy and indecisive. What ultimately grabbed and held my attention was the field of psychology and my insatiable curiosity about human behavior - specifically my own. During my time at UC Davis, the Center for Neuroscience was completed and opened for business (research), so I applied for and earned an internship under a professor who was studying blood flow in the brain during short-term memory. The specific study I was involved in had me reading a list of words to subjects that included a sub-theme, a few words such as sleep, pillow, and sheets mixed into a larger list. When asked to recall whether they'd heard certain words on the list, subjects often claimed they'd heard a related word such as bed or dream even though they were not on the original list.

Outside the lab, I started to wonder about my own memories. How had time, association, or my own personal world view shaped my memories. How were they shaping my current experiences. There had been countless times I'd said to myself, "I'm never going to forget this," but only a handful of times that I actually remembered. What made some memories fade while others endured? Some research I read at the time suggested trauma preserved memory, but who the hell wanted those ones. Other studies indicated that glucose levels in the brain influenced the longevity of memories, but did that mean I should eat a candy bar every time I say, "I'm never going to forget this?" Chances are I'd just develop a powerful sense of nostalgia every time I smelled a Baby Ruth.

Did I ever find a satisfactory answer to my questions? If I did, I must not have been on a sugar high at the time because I can't remember jack.

The reason I mention this is two-fold. First of all, I feel as though I've been having random memories pop into my head lately - memories that I can't trace to their origins through the thoughts or feelings I'd been having prior to their emergence. Secondly, I've been wondering if the novelty of my early experiences as a parent gives them an edge in becoming long-term memories? Not to mention all the writing, pictures, and videos. I know childhood amnesia will wipe away many of Amari's memories, but I have no doubt that the sense of love and safety in the world she is developing will influence her future experiences.

In the past couple of weeks there have been many highlights, but in the interest of time and my aging brain's limited memory capacity I will include the top three.

Story Time

Amari loves her books. She loves to turn the pages, look at the pages, kiss the occasional character, and most recently actually listen to and interact with the story. When we read a sequel to "Harold and the Purple Crayon," Amari says a loud, "Mmmmmm" when they eat pie in the park, then imitates a monkey when they go to the zoo, and finally makes a bouncing bunny with two fingers when they run into Little Bunny Foo Foo. At bedtime the other night, I decided to tell her the story without the book and she made the same sound effects at exactly the right time. It was very sweet and it never gets old. In fact, that is now one of my favorite books.

Theatrical Debut

On the last day of school before the winter break, the high schoolers put on a Winter Workshop for the local elementary school. Carrie and I were recruited to sing Christmas carols and put on a small production of "The Shoemaker and the Elves." During one of the six performances Friday morning I decided to film the short play, and was rewarded with what I will now dub a Baby Ruth moment. If Amari ever goes into acting, this video will definitely be a part of her resume.

I also made another video which awards Amari B the Best Actress of 2010 for various Hollywood roles

Toddler Therapy

Just prior to the Winter Workshop, I took Amari over to the elementary school to wonder up and down their halls. Amari loves people - especially other kids. She waddled her way through the increasingly busy corridors, smiling and blathering "Hella's" and other incomprehensible noises. I was filming her up until she stopped and stared at a little girl sitting by the wall and crying. I turned off the camera and watched as Amari peered in at the girl, tilted her head to the side, peered in again, then toddled over and gave her a giant, heart-melting hug. The girl couldn't help but smile and hug her back.

"What a beautiful thing to be uninhibited by the world of social construct," I thought, "I'm never ever going to forget this." ;) 

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