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Now is the time when I really wish I had more of a neuroscience background, because the memory of children—specifically my child—is starting to blow me away.

I first began to notice Simon’s excellent recall when he started describing soccer moves from games and years past.

“You mean like when John Terry made an own goal against Arsenal?”

As that happened in 2003 or so, I do not. Simon saw it on a highlight reel, though, and he’s never going to forget.

Or how about

” . . . like when Giles Barnes left the Sunderland defense in a twist!”

This one came from an episode of 500 Greatest Goals, and no, I don’t remember it, either.

Then towards the end of the school year I began noticing that Simon remembered a few words in Hebrew from preschool, quite a few Spanish words, and that he was comparing them to the Chinese vocabulary he was picking up.

My observation of his memory hit a climax this past week. I read something to him, and a day or so later he proceeded to recite it back to me verbatim. On Friday we finished a game of 10 Days in Europe, a geography strategy game, and I decided to talk a little about the countries on the board, beginning with their population. Each country card has the nation’s capital and population written on it, so I sorted them into piles by the million: > 100 million, 80-90 million, 70-79 million, and so forth all the way down to < million. Then we looked at the piles and briefly discussed.

Last night (Sunday), right before bed, we played a quick game. Afterwards, I asked Simon a few questions just for the heck of it:

“Which country in your trip has the most people?” [The game ends when you can link 10 days together, which may include as few as 5 or as many as 10 different countries.]


“That’s right. How many people?”

“Over 80 million.”

“OK. So which country in all of Europe has the most people in it?”


“Yup. How many people? Do you remember?”

“Um, 140 million?”

“I don’t remember. That seems high, so let’s look it up. Yup, 140 million.”

“Which country on your trip has the fewest people?”

“Portugal. It has 10 million. [correct again]”

“Does it? It does! OK, hot shot, which country in all of Europe has the fewest people?”

“Iceland. It doesn’t even have a million. Luxembourg and Montenegro don’t have a million people, either.”

He was right! Neither do Andorra, San Marino, or the other micro-states, but they aren’t on the game board. For the record, he did miss a few. He had Italy at 77 million when it’s in the 50s, and he had Denmark as the most populous Scandinavian country when that honor goes to Sweden. But the sheer number he got right blew me away. He remembered as many or more than I did, and I have a heck of a lot more context to guess which countries are full and which are empty.

And if you are wondering what the thing was I read to him that he could recite verbatim, perhaps now is the time to confess that my 43-year-old brain cannot remember! It has neither the capacity nor elasticity that his does. But I can remember what it was like to have vast and easy recall, and I’m delighted that he’ll have this tool in his box for school.


One Response to “Memory”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    I can still remember the evening that Perry and I learned to never, ever play Trivial Pursuit with you because you could remember everything you had ever read.

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