Anna Spargo-Ryan

What I know about … remembering

I am the kind of person who remembers everything. This is not a good or bad thing and it’s not a competition, it’s just something that I do.

I remember the trivial things. One day I decided to see if I could remember my childhood best friend’s phone number, and ten years later I could (but I didn’t dial it in case someone weird answered). I have actively tried not to remember my own credit card number, because the only thing stopping me from spending every dollar I have is sheer laziness in reaching for my purse (I have now memorised it by accident, so there is no hope for me). I remember things like my first boyfriend’s birthday (January 7th 1981) and my year 1 teacher’s first name (Brenton) and the number of the bus I had to catch to the city when I was ten (703).

One day when I was about 15 my mum said to me, Anna, do you remember this family called the Edmonsons, and I said, Yes, their backyard had a paved area with a Hills Hoist to the right and a black table with five chairs and the house was a kind of cream stucco with four windows. And she said, We haven’t been there since you were ten months old and I shrugged like it was nothing but that’s a pretty long memory.

I don’t remember names. Just this morning I forgot the name of a friend’s girlfriend – a person I’ve known for at least five years. It just clean ducked out of my memory and was quite insistent about not coming back. I had to call my friend and ask him, it was so embarrassing. If you show me a photo of someone, I’ll remember their favourite food, how they take their coffee, what they smell like, where they live, what car they drive and their past three places of employment. But I will balk at their name, and just start shouting random names until I come up with one that’s close enough to spark my memory.

I remember the less trivial things too. I remember the way my first cat smelt like tuna and dandelion flowers because we used to roll in them together. I remember the recipe for my nanna’s very best scones (use wholemeal flour and brown sugar). I remember my dad’s credit card number in case I run out of my own money and urgently need to register a domain. I’ve actively tried not to remember how I felt when my favourite boyfriend left me on a train station platform to smoke on my own, forever, but that one is lodged in there too. I remember what we had for dessert on the last day of the camp I went on in year six (thin French waffles, rolled up and filled with hot caramel fudge, with whipped cream on both ends). I remembered the chef’s face many years later when I read a story about him in the paper after he’d molested fifteen schoolboys.

Sometimes I feel the memories forming at the time, and think to myself that one day I’ll tell someone else about this and remember when I started remembering it.


I’m Anna, a digital strategist and writer who likes to drink 'Ice Tea' but doesn't understand why it's not called 'Iced Tea'. By night and occasionally morning, I eat things, write things, berate my children, walk my dogs and hug my chocolate.


  • Michaela C

    November 5, 2012 6:49 pm

    You are an amazing, luminous, talented creature.

    As someone who remembers bugger all – I am in awe.


  • November 5, 2012 9:05 pm

    Love reading your writing, Anna. I remember things too. Minute details. From when I was very young. Sometimes I feel the memories forming too – I knew exactly what you meant you wrote that. Beautifully written. x

  • November 5, 2012 9:18 pm

    This is why you are a beautifully talented writer. You remember the little things. And you can make up your own names so don’t worry about it. I am HOPELESS with names too. HOPELESS!

  • November 6, 2012 8:53 am

    You write so well!!!

  • November 6, 2012 10:53 am

    I have done that – with names, i often call school mums by their children’s names by accident, at least that is funny. Others just leave my mind – my excuse, 9 different schools for our children & counting!! I have a pretty ace memory for all the tiny details too, love Posie

  • November 6, 2012 11:48 am

    I remember everything too. Number plates, phone numbers from 15 years ago, my hourly wage when I was 16, insults from boys in year 11 psychology class. It makes my brain hurt, and also gives me endless fodder for ruminating. Sometimes I use it for good, but mostly I find myself getting stuck in the past. I’m still learning how to use this memory tool to its best capacity, and hopefully I’ll nail it before I start to lose it, as my grandmother when she came down with Alzheimer’s.
    Happy birthday BTW.

  • November 6, 2012 12:15 pm

    As someone with the world’s worst memory for anything other than music and movie trivia, I have a huge amount of ENVY for the fabulous detail you can recall.

    I rely on other people to fill in the blanks :)

  • November 6, 2012 1:28 pm

    I’m amazed at your memory. Mind used to be sharp (oh so very long ago). Now it is just the opposite. I remember so little. I blame it on childbirth.

  • November 6, 2012 5:07 pm

    That’s quite some memory there! Your memory of the Edmonsons reminds me of the time I asked my family if they remembered “that one funny time” at Coffs Harbour when our mother reached in to the pool and grabbed our sister by the hair because she was floating face down in the pool? Heh-heh? Remember that? (and they all looked at me and said… “Yes… but she was saving YOU from drowning, not your sister.”

    Yeh. Some details of some things are a bit funny in your recollection of them.

    I had to literally laugh out loud at the urgency of the domain name registration thing. And the friend’s phone number(s). And credit card numbers. Mine, his, parents. Oh my. Peas in a pod in that regard, you and I ;-) Loved this post, Anna.

  • November 6, 2012 8:07 pm

    Do you ever wonder what the purpose of all that stuff is? I remember odd collections of things, odd ways of doing things. The way my fingers used to sweep across the keypad to ring my first boyfriend (probably because i was the ringer not the ringee) I cant say the number aloud but if I held a phone my fingers would tell it.
    I have this odd assortment of collected memories that sit in the dark recesses of my brain and I pretend I dont have them because if I told people the stuff I remember then they’ll look at me in a (more) weird way.
    In my family Im the one that fills in the gaps everyone has. Maybe thats the reason.
    Thanks for linking up, I want to eat those Year 6 waffles now.

  • November 7, 2012 9:59 am

    Hey Anna. That was really humorous reading (except the part about being left at the train station, what is it about those places) I had a good laugh about the name thing because I’m the same and it’s a constant cause of awkward monents in my own life. Sometimes I guess at the person that way you only got it wrong and it just looks like an honest mistake (I think)

  • November 8, 2012 6:28 am

    I love your writing Anna.

    I’m pretty good with names, but it’s because I used to work as a trainer at a law firm (teaching communication skills and other fluffy stuff) and had to find tricks to remember every person who sat in my classroom. I’m hopeless with numbers, I even get my own phone number wrong and always need at least two attempts at my pin.

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