Memory is a tricky thing. Especially as we get older. When I was younger I had a very good memory for stuff: incidents, people, places, words, and images. I could remember them all with good clarity. What happened, where, and when? I knew. People would often remark on how good my memory was. That was back when I was in my early 20s so now it’s my memory of my memory but it’s not my memory anymore.

As I’ve grown older my memory has grown murkier. Not in an abnormal way. My memory is still very good but there is a lot more to remember when you’re fifty compared to when you’re twenty. I think the steel trap memory of my youth had a lot to do with being young. When you’re young there are lots of new things happening all the time. Lot’s of new experiences and firsts to remember. As time goes by a sameness can creep in. It’s gets tougher for things to make a distinct memory in the mind.

When you’re at a friend’s birthday party for the first time it’s an event. Or even the second or third time. But what about the twelfth time? What distinguished that from the thirteenth? I bet at some point the birthday parties might even stop. When did that happen? Was there a birthday party in 2003 or 2004? Who knows? Sometimes 1986 is clearer than 2006. That’s how memory works.

What has me contemplating memory today is, in fact, a memory. A lot of my memories of days gone by are linked to photographs. Not only have I taken a fair amount of photographs since my college days but I’ve taken care to label them with time, place, and who is in them. Even in my days of remembering lots of stuff I knew my memory wasn’t perfect and so I should write stuff down. I’m glad I did. Organizing photos helps burn the memory into my brain and even if it doesn’t looking at the photo can bring that time back. And the notes help with clarity.

At least that’s how the photos I took work for me. I always find it weird to see some old photo of me that I’ve never seen before pop up from a friend on Facebook. My photos are familiar to me but one I’ve never seen before gets my brain going “Is that really me? Where is it? How come I can’t remember that at all?” It’s like looking at an alien self from the past. Always a strange experience.

The memory that I was contemplating today didn’t come from a photo. It came from a day when neither I nor anyone else had a camera with them. It’s not like these days when everyone has a camera on their phone with them at all times. It was in 1986 when if you wanted to take photos you had to decide to bring your camera with you before hand. That day I left mine behind.

It was a spring day in 1986 back when I was in my fourth and final semester at what is now called SUNY Sullivan up in Sullivan County NY. I’m guessing it was sometime in April and school was closed for the day. I think it was a Friday and it was a beautiful Spring day out. I’m trying to remember who I was with but can’t quite get if there were four, five, or six of us. I think I was with my roommates Jeff and Jay plus our friend Denise. There may have been a couple of other friends there but I really can’t remember.

Campus was pretty empty that day as there was no school and we were hanging out in a far off place on campus so it was even emptier. It was so far off the beaten path that I don’t think I had been there before. The reason we were there is that Denise used to be a high school basketball player and had discovered an outdoor court over in this corner of the campus. So we went there to hang out and shoot some hoops. She and I were the only athletes in the group so we played some horse as everyone else explored the space. It was a nice space.

Other than the basketball court there was a big field, some small hills, an embankment, and lots of nature on that warm Spring day. I can’t even remember what else we did but we were out there for hours and hours exploring this new corner of campus. I wish my memory of that day was clearer but it’s faded over time. I can only remember bits and pieces of the landscape. What hasn’t faded is my feeling of warmth and friendship on that day and that’s why I remember it.

High School was mostly bland for me. I knew a lot of people and had known a lot of people since grade school but I wasn’t very social. I went to school, did my school work, came home, and either hung out with my friend who lived next door or drew by myself. I was the only creative artist I knew in high school. But college changed all that. I was at SUNY Sullivan to study commercial art and so was the rest of my class. Suddenly I had a lot of people to share interests with and life was a lot more fun. I made some good friends and had some good times. Especially that warm sunny day shooting hoops.

Even on that day I knew I wanted to remember it. I knew it was one of those special fleeting days that don’t come around often. I can still feel its warmth. All of us who were there were friends for since we got to school in September of 1984 and we had about another month of classes until we graduated and moved on to other schools to complete our bachelor degrees. I knew it was almost over for this gang of mine and I wanted the memory go this day to stick with me. All these years later it has. Just not as clearly as it once did. That’s time for you.