Where were you a year ago?

A couple posts ago, I mentioned my theory about humans being wired for anniversaries. I still haven’t taken the time to consult with Professor Google to see if there is any science bearing out that theory—for tonight’s sake, I’ve decided that whether or not I’m right about humans in general being wired this way, I know from my own lived experience that I sure as shit am wired that way.

I think it started with all the moving around we did when I was growing up. A lot of my memories of growing up are organized on the internal string of beads I keep in my head tracking what town and house we lived in for what years, what school I was at, and what my classroom looked like at different ages.

The internal recollection of where I was when such-and-such a memory took place is one of my most vivid ways of being able to place when something happened and how that memory exists in the sequence of events that have made up my life.

A picture of several beaded bracelets in different shades of red and maroon.

So I expect I’ll be spending the next month or so being a little bit haunted by the recollection of “where I was a year ago.”

A year ago I had just gotten home from Portland Oregon. I had been out there for a conference and had one of those all-day flights home on the Sunday afterwards—one of those flights where between the cross-country flying time and the time zone losses, you take off before breakfast and land after dinner?*

And that was the last time I’ve been on a plane, or stayed in a hotel, or taken a Lyft ride. Or been in a bookstore.

Ah Powell’s, we barely knew ye!

A set of purple stairs inside of Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon. Printed on the stair risers is this question: "What do Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Beatrix Potter and D.H. Lawrence have in common?"

I remember talking to—well, texting with—a friend of mine right before this conference started. This was maybe February 4th or so? She was going to be flying from her home (Baltimore) out to Portland for the same conference, just a day behind my flight on the 5th. She mentioned something about feeling some nervousness about traveling to the west coast, what with this new coronavirus that the WHO and the US Government had just labelled as a public health emergency.

I’m embarrassed to say that at the time, I wondered if she was over-reacting.**

But by the time I was wheels down in Oregon and saw news coverage about the first cruise ship quarantine, as well as regional coverage about early cases in Washington State and California, my eyes were beginning to be opened.

Still, when I was on that cross-country flight home, watching movies on my iPad—The Goldfinch and It Chapter 2, I believe?—I had no idea what was in store for me. For the country, for the world, for my family and friends.

Where was I a year ago? Physically, I was where I am now, almost exactly. (In this same house, although I was probably in bed rather than at my computer.)


Where was I a year ago? A world away from the jittery, COVID-exhausted, anniversary state I’m feeling this week.


*Okay, that’s a tiny bit of an exaggeration. But not much of one.

** Whoops.


Image credits:

One thought on “Where were you a year ago?

  1. I can save you the appointment with Dr. Google — yes, our brains are innately tuned to anniversaries, tho big *negative* emotional events/experiences/upheavals imprint much more strongly than positive ones. It’s all part and parcel of the nervous system trying to keep us safe and alive, at least enough for us to make more humans and then keep *them* alive and safe long enough to get fertile too. So anytime some big, bad, scary thing happens, the brain registers all sorts of random, often sensory, details that might help it predict (and thereby avoid) any repeats.

    Anyhoo. Here endeth my cocktail party trivia for the day! 😘


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