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《Lessons for Elementary School (10)》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Memory

“Grandpa, do you have good memory?” Nancy asks after school.

“May be I have.” Grandpa answers hesitantly. He says after a moment: “I can remember my Mom very well and a lot of things when I was growing up. I also remember how thrilled we were when we brought you home from the hospital. You were such a tiny sweet little baby. But, I often forget where my glasses are; even I had put them down moments ago.”

"But you have me, Grandpa. I can always find your glasses for you.”

“Yes, dear, I know I can always depend on you to find my glasses and socks. But, there are things I cannot remember, like meeting my dentist appointment. It is your Mom who helps me to attend all my medical appointments. Sometimes, I am afraid what I would do if I have to be on my own. I had never been afraid like that when I was young.”

“You will never be on your own, Grandpa. You will always have us. And you always remember to buy me ice cream when you shop with Mom.”

“Yes, I do. That is because I enjoy seeing how you enjoy eating ice cream. I guess we remember well those things we love to see or feel.”

“That is exactly what Professor Fang told us today. He visited us again because he said he enjoyed having discussions with us so spontaneously. He taught us the word association. It means putting things together in our mind to help memory.”

“What else did he say?”

“Well, a lot. He explained to us that memory is a process of three steps. It begins with us noticing something, putting it in mind, and getting them out from our mind later. He said that psychologists use special words to represent these three steps. The words are encoding, storing and retrieval.”

“Wow, that seems right; but what about association?”

“We asked that question too. Dr. Fang said that is both simple and complex. For example, we see things not alone, but often in connection with other things around. But, there are individuals who see things in isolation. It is because they believed they knew what the things were already. In other words, they insist seeing things in their own ways.”

“That sounds like being clever. Is it not?”

“Dr. Fang said it is because of selfishness and proud ignorance.”

“Would you like to be a psychologist when you grow up?” Grandpa asks Nancy.

“I may. But I am not sure.”

“You already sound like a psychologist.” Grandpa teased.

“Why do you say that?”

“I mean, it seems psychologists say a lot of possible things that are seldom definite.”

“Dr Fang did tell us things for sure. He said that babies begin to learn how things change with hide and seek games. When a baby drops a spoon, he tries to look for it by moving his position in the highchair. Then, Mom can repeat that game by hiding a spoon behind her back. The baby usually would use his hand to get it from Mom’s back. Dr. Fang said that only human babies can do that.”

“That is very interesting, Nancy. I mean not just what the Professor said, but also that you are learning these things in elementary school.”

“We can learn lots of things too, Grandpa. Dr. Fang also told us that we humans can remember things across time and places because we use language and symbols to encode things and events. Animals can only remember simple things. Like a squirrel can remember where he had hid an acorn. But humans can remember the meanings of poems and paintings and fables and gods. He also had us listen to the beautiful song Memory. It sounded so neat even when I don’t understand what the lyrics were trying to say. I enjoy the sentence ‘when dawn comes, this evening will be memory too’”

“That is indeed great!” Grandpa says with much appreciation. He is really happy that his granddaughter is learning so much at such a young age. He suggests: “Mr. Shaw deserves an ice cream doing so much for you guys.”

“Dr. Fang deserves one too.” Nancy echoes with her appreciation for the Stanford professor. She adds: ‘He said something that I like very much. But I don’t understand all its meanings. He said that ‘Memory makes us human. If we could not recall who, what, where and when of our daily lives, we would not be able to do all the things to achieve happiness and dignity’.”

“Did he teach you how best to remember things?”

“No, he did not. But, he told us not to spend too much time and energy doing parrot type recalls. He also promised that he would visit us again, to teach us how to remember things with richer meanings. Grandpa, we are still little kids. We can wait to learn more.”

“Sure you can. I am very proud of you. When I was your age I did not even know what a professor was.”

“But you did remember a lot of things, Grandpa.”

“I guess that is what the professor was saying, that humans do have the ability to remember. I just wish I can remember more. I am now sure that your memories will be much richer than mine. I am so happy for you.”

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