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Throwback Thursday

By Heather Oman

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this particular phrase, but it refers to when a person posts an old photo of themselves and others on Facebook.

I’ve talked before about how I’m a little bit addicted to Facebook, and TBT makes me smile every time I see a picture of somebody I know and love in a space and time different from now. When it’s an old friend, or somebody I have known for a while, often times I will think, “Oh, that’s how I see her in my mind!” or “That’s the guy I remember!” When it’s somebody I’ve met recently, the pictures make me smile to think of, for example, my movie star gorgeous girlfriend strutting 3 foot tall bushy 80’s bangs. (My sister called those bangs “Wall of China” bangs, and she coined it at a time when I distinctly remember being sad that my bangs were not high enough.)

Recently, an old friend posted a class picture of our 4th grade class. Before this picture, I would have told you that I have vivid memories of 4th grade. I remember playing hopscotch with my friend Keren, struggling with a math packet, working through math quizzes, listening to a lecture about personal hygiene from the science teacher (how EMBARRASSING), and artfully arranging my erasers on my desk for a little decorative flair. I remember the C+ I got on a science project on the food chain I worked pretty hard on, and how angry and hurt I was at the crummy grade.

I remember the teacher arranged our desks in a creative way, and for the last part of the school year I sat by myself wedged in a corner, with my only neighbor being a boy whose desk was sort of close to mine. I sat next to this kid every year we shared a class in elementary school, and have since learned from my mother that the teachers would always put us together, because he was a tough kid who had behavioral issues, but for some reason would chill out if he was sitting next to me. It was true–I never minded sitting next to him, and he was never mean to me.

See? These are VIVID memories, people, memories I have almost 30 years after the fact!

And yet, when my friend posted that picture, I was hard pressed to name even a dozen of the 36 kids in our class.

(Yes, THIRTY SIX children. No wonder our teacher arranged our desks artfully. We probably didn’t fit into the classroom any other way.)

Part of the problem is that I moved after 5th grade, and never saw most of these kids again. I’m sure if I had experiences with them in junior high or high school, their faces would be more vivid. I remembered *some* of the faces, and other FB friends helped put names to them. But there were plenty of names and faces that were completely lost, and even an entire adult aide who I had no memory of. Even when another friend named her, it didn’t ring a bell. The only thing that stirred was a vague memory of the smell of cigarettes—maybe she smoked on a lunch break?– and even that might be sort of made up.

I’ve forgotten so much, things that must have been important to me. But I must have also forgotten things that stung, too. I remember preparing comebacks to say to a mean kid who would always harass me—what was his name? I remember getting into a fight with a kid (which I’m pretty sure I started), but again, what was his name? I remember playing hopscotch and being happy, but there were probably lots of times when I wasn’t happy, having suffered slights delivered on the playground, small emotional injuries that occur on playgrounds across the country that must have hurt at the time but that have faded and disappeared with time.

What a nice thing.

I mean, I know that’s kind of an odd thing to say, but it’s nice to look at a picture of a bunch of kids and see, well, just a bunch of kids. Time really does have a way of softening things. Which is kind of a blessing, isn’t it?

What kinds of things do you remember from when you were a kid? Has time softened some things, or are there things that are still strong in your mind? What do you think makes a memory strong enough to carry for over 30 years?

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

2 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday”

  1. I still loathe any song by Simply Red, because that was one of my many hated nicknames in high school. Matchstick was a name as well ("One strike and she's alight!" – yeah, a couple of related anger issues didn't help). I'm coming up to 25 years and it still stings.

    Time hasn't softened much from my childhood, but that in itself is a bonus because I can make changes for the better.

    And I love seeing TBT shared by all my friends!

  2. This is a really fun thing to see. TBT is just cool! I don't have to go to everybody's houses and flip through their photo albums, you know? They voluntarily show me their favorite pictures from childhood and beyond and I love it.

    Some things are still vivid: the smell of my 2nd grade teacher's perfume (the smell is still comforting to me), my 5th grade teacher's cackle, digging a hole to China (as far as Arizona clay would let us with our fingers), my friend Tiffany pretending to be a cat or eating the cream cheese off my bagel, meeting my friend Tamara for the first time. Other things are hazy: why did I go into the library at lunch to play chess? Weird.


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