by Kristy Gherlone
A true, short story.
When I was five and in kindergarten, I tied my shoe laces together and couldn’t get them undone.
I remember it was fall, sometime near Halloween. I know that we were watching a movie and eating roasted pumpkin seeds. I was disappointed that we weren’t having popcorn, but I was surprised by the sweet, buttery saltiness.
That particular day, we’d walked in a neat, quiet line across the hall to join the other kindergarten class. I can’t tell you what the movie was or who was sitting next to me, but I remember frantically trying to get my shoelaces undone before a teacher noticed what a lame brain I was. I asked the kid next to me for help, but she knew less than I did about the workings of shoelaces.
When the movie finished and it was time to go back, I shuffled along with my feet close together until the other teacher (not my own dear teacher) stopped me at the door and asked why I did such a foolish thing. It was the first time I remember feeling my cheeks flush with embarrassment. I remember that she wouldn’t help me. She said I’d have to figure it out on my own, and I can remember, in my panic, thinking that my shoes would stay like that forever.
Would I have remembered that day if it hadn’t left a mark on my psyche? Probably not. As I think back, I have quite a few memories like that. Days that I would have otherwise forgotten if not for the feelings they gave me. I have a sense that if not for those seemingly small tragedies, my childhood days would be molded together in one big blur.
It’s funny how the brain works. I do have plenty of pleasant memories, but it’s the ones like the shoelaces that come back the easiest.
Why is it easier to remember the bad stuff? Psychologists would say it’s an innate defense mechanism to keep you from making the same mistakes again. While tying my shoelaces together wasn’t detrimental to my health, I never did it again, so well played, brain.
As I look back on a lifetime of embarrassments, I realize that it’s not all bad. I remember kindergarten. I remember my sweet teacher Mrs. Hartung, and I remember how good pumpkin seeds taste.