Knowing you have a bad memory at the age of 23 is a scary thing.
“How bad did it (stink) when you had your root canal?” my friend Layne asked me in a text message.
“Did I have a root canal?” I responded.
“Haha, I thought you came over one time after having one,” Layne said.
And slowly, bits and pieces of the memory from only a little over a year ago begin floating back to me. They’re mingled with other memories of the dentist and other memories of hanging out with Layne causing the experience to still be completely foggy. The inability to remember whether I’ve had a root canal causes me to question what other experiences I’ve had in life that I’ve completely forgotten about.
As I contemplated whether the root canal happened, I was driving from Fremont to Waterloo. Fremont, the town with the hospital where I was born, and Waterloo where I was raised. When I arrived in Waterloo, I decided to take an extra ten minutes to tour the town before going to my parents’ house. With some visual prompts, I realized I have at least some memory left because on almost every block is a memory to go with it.
You pull into town on the northwest corner and pass the former kindergarten through 12th grade Waterloo Public School, where I attended through ninth grade. The place where I peed my pants standing in line for the bathroom in kindergarten, developed a fascination for the Oregon Trail playing the game on the computers in fourth grade, and slipped in a mud puddle trying to save a basketball from going out of bounds on the first day of sixth grade. The school where I attended my first dance on homecoming of freshman year and where I fell in love with English reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in freshman English.
One block to the east is the house my parents built when I started school. The house where Kaylea and I raced up and down the front yard, played pick-up games of kickball and street hockey, and where we practiced becoming lifeguards swimming in the old metal horse tank. Two blocks to the north is the stop sign Kaylea and I could ride our bikes to and from our house and back, and the little old house a childhood friend convinced me a witch lived in and made me keep watch while she “investigated” the woman’s shed.
Another block to the east is the only house I lived in as an only child. One more block to the east are the apartments we lived in while waiting for our house to be built, which are the same apartments that my Aunt Patty lived in when she and I would hang out during my childhood days.
Main Street is on the east side of those apartments and possesses all types of memories including buying cans of root beer at Jack’s full service gas station and eating soft serve ice cream at Betty B’s Convenience Store, both of which are out of business today. There’s the post office and the duck pond and all of the oldest, most beautiful homes in town, including the big old house my first grade teacher used to live in that people turned into a haunted house for a few years after she moved out. The old Robinson Seed Company buildings line the road by the railroad tracks and all have long, sloped drives that we used to ride our bikes down. And, that’s all only on the north side of the 700 population town separated by railroad tracks.
In middle school, we moved to the south side. The side with the small church I grew up in, the ball field I had to practice at every day, and the large stretches of the bike trail I’d run every morning of summer. The side with the town park and the water tower, the new El Bee’s Mexican restaurant, and the side where my grandparents lived.
I’m still not sure if I’ve ever had a root canal or not, and my mom doesn’t know either. But, after ten minutes of driving around the place I call home, I don’t really care and am only slightly concerned about the condition of my brain and its ability to recall events. Because whether I remember if I’ve had a root canal or not doesn’t matter as much as knowing where my roots come from. And that, for the most part, I remember.