The tiniest detail can determine the depth and intensity of a memory. It’s that faint fragrance wafting from the corner of the flowerbed at my first home that I remember most about playing in its front yard, and that in turn, reminds me—every time I get a whiff of the same scent—of living in that cozy brick house with its backyard apple trees to climb, the slope from fence to sidewalk where we slid down the grass on a cardboard magic carpet, and the narrow muddy track behind the back wall where we played at exploration.
My grandmother gave me a little locket, once, that had been her father’s watch fob, and I made a little drawing of the monogram on its front, HDB for Hans Daniel Bolstad. When I look at the drawing now, the locket itself long gone somewhere else after multiple moves of residence, I remember the small weight of it in my hand, the warm burnished shine of its pale yellow metal, and the feel of the engraved curves in the monogram bitten well into the gold-plated finish on it. I also remember, thanks to the tiny little hole where the drawing is black at the bottom center of the drawing, hearing the story of how the space between the engraved lines there were caved in by a different kind of bite, that of Great-Grandpa’s tiny daughter when she teethed on the locket a little fiercely.
What will I remember when my memory is further faded by time and age? Impossible to know. But my guess is that it’ll be seemingly insignificant, minute motes, and not the grand arc of history, that’ll remain intact and prod me to recall unexpected things from time to time. I may not hang onto much of importance, but some dust-sized fleck of a sensory clue that will likely trigger a cascade of reminiscence when the moment comes.