In fact, I learned the multiplication tables by rote, thanks to the efforts of my father. I usually think about him around Father’s Day, and that time in my life when he made it his mission to teach me the multiplication tables.
His approach (like everything else I encountered) was a little unorthodox. Although he started with the traditional method of using flashcards, the multiplication problem written boldly on one side and the answer on the other, he needed to add his own spin to it.
One night while sitting at the head of the dining room table, his put his plan into action. Mouth filled with buttery mashed potatoes, he looked at me and yelled out “6 x7!” A little bit stunned at first, I looked to my mother for an answer, but she just nodded her head as if to say “go ahead and answer him, he’s not going to stop until you do.”
I gathered up as much gustso as he had presented and answered “42!” He grinned and shoveled another forkful of potatoes into his mouth.
It had begun.
Questions would fly out of nowhere, seemingly finding me from another room as he passed by. I could be on the phone with my friend discussing the merits of ironing our hair (it was the ‘60s after all) when suddenly I would hear his roar of “8 x4!” and have to interrupt and answer “24!”
Even heated debates with my sisters as to who was cuter, Davy Jones or Paul McCartney, had no bearing when a question fired out by my father’s bellowing command, demanding it be answered.
I have to admit, it worked.
It wasn’t until I started having teenagers of my own that I realized I wasn’t remembering as much detail about things as I wanted. Perhaps it was the onslaught of information I needed to keep in a specific amount of time. I was working, raising a family (at that time two girls and three boys) and running a business. I think my poor brain was on overload, so I made it a point to stop and tell myself “remember this” whenever something important or poignant was happening.
My teens, ever aware of my predicament, wasted no time in taking advantage of the situation.
“What do you mean you can’t take me to the mall?” my daughter would moan. “You promised, don’t you remember?”
“Why can’t we go to the concert with the guys” the boys would groan. “You said it was ok. Or don’t you remember?”
I began to notice they were telling me these things, but always on the backend of another conversation, or sandwiched in between information about school or some other occasion.
I finally told them “Listen – if you need me to know something, stop me and look me right in the face and tell me. I will remember that.”
That’s when I began my self-taught method of making sure I didn’t forget something. I would stop myself and say “You will remember this.”
It could be something simple as sunset or a piece of music.
I had traveled to California to attend a special training for work with a non-profit organization, and one of the rewards was an outdoor dinner at a nice restaurant.
After the meal, my other associates and I were led outside to a beautiful garden. Sitting on wrought iron chairs, we listened with our full attention, hands wrapped around full glasses of wine, as we were serenaded by beautiful young men who played Spanish guitars. Surrounded by the smells of orange blossoms and lemons, the laughter of my friends and the realization I was enjoying being in the moment was surreal. It was the first time I had traveled anywhere other than New York, and I wanted to remember it always. “Remember this” I whispered to myself. Remember this.
It has been whispered many times since then. Whether it during the marriage of one of my children, or the sound of a grandchild splashing in the bathtub, I make sure that my psyche absorbs the moment.
A moment in time is not to be overlooked, whether it be deemed mundane or pointless, for it is not without value. The memory can become the basis for a chain of events or mere acts of kindness tied together in seemingly unrelated occurrences.
Gift wrapping is part of my job now, as I stand at the counter and listen to those customers around me who need assistance. I listen intently as they ask for guidance as to the perfect gift for Aunt Millie, but my mind wanders as I hear the sounds of the cash registers and the ringing phone, the ripping paper and swish of ribbon, the laughter of my co-workers who are, just like me, enjoying the moment of being with each other and just being alive, loving the fact we have made someone happy.
Remember this I smile to myself, as I hand the neatly wrapped gift to the young boy whose present for his mother is met with awe and gratefulness. We touch each other’s lives in so many ways, with the smallest of gestures, touches and memories.
I want to remember it all.