Memory landmarks

Navigating one’s own memory can be tricky. My husband has been talking about replacing the small laser printer on the upper shelf of his desk for a while, and when he recently mentioned that the one he has is about 10 years old I scoffed. I bought him that as an upgrade “just a couple Christmases ago.” I was certain.

Nope. Because of the way he obsessively backs up device drivers, he could show me that the original drivers he installed for the computer were for Windows 98, second edition. “Remember, when you upgraded to Win 2000 shortly after, we had trouble getting drivers that would work.”

“Ah!” I said, “I knew that printer was before I switched back to Apple, but didn’t realized how much Before Mac it was!”

Before Mac and Since Mac is a fuzzy divider, because sometimes I put the line in May ’09, when I replaced my desktop computer with a MacPro tower, and other times I put it in Jan ’09, when for laptop use I stopped bouncing back and forth between my Sharp PC and my Mac Powerbook, and bought myself a Macbook.

A much more solid mental landmark is the Before Layoff and After Layoff. Of course, having been employed at the same company for more than 20 years (having survived 5 or so previous recessions), June 30, 2008 sticks out quite prominently.

The previous major landmark was half-fuzzy, and half so hard-and-bright-it-hurt: Before Ray Died, and After. The Before is very, very clear. The only reason there’s fuzz at all is I kind of, sort of, almost completely went to pieces for a few months after my first husband died. I remember things that happened during that time, but I’m really unclear on the precise order some of them happened in.

That’s why there’s some fuzziness on another landmark. Michael had known Ray and I for a couple years before Ray’s death, and Michael and I started dating about three months after Ray died… But it was still during that period when my memory is a bit shattered. Don’t get me wrong, I remember dating and falling in love, just don’t ask me which date happened when.

There are lots of other landmarks. Before Grandma Died, Before Grandpa Died, Before I Came Out and Divorced, Before My First Marriage, Before Seattle, Before Longview, Before My Folks Split Up… and so on.

Others are less about the physical world. I’ve already mentioned Before Mac, and at least implied Before Win2000 but there are a lot more. Before InDesign, for instance, and much earlier, Before PageMaker. Then there’s many different phases of During WordPerfect (since my workplace swtiched to it, away from it, back to it and away; during most of which time and long after WP was my preferred word processor for personal use). There’s Before I Gave In And Got A Cell Phone, there’s Before I Embraced Word Processors, or Before I Figured Out Orson Scott Card Was An Evil Bigot And That’s Why So Much of His Writing Bothered Me, or Before I Read Wyrd Sisters And Became A Pratchett Fanatic.

That latter, by the way, is right up there with Before Star Wars, Before I Knew Who Asimov Was, and Before I Knew Where Books Come From.

So, what are your landmarks?

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