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October 1, 2020 By Jan Heise

Ah Memories Was I Even There?

Memories are funny things. Sometimes you can visualize the face of a classmate from third grade as if chiseled on the back of your brain, but you can’t remember a single name at your class reunion. For example, I can remember a minor event, like eating strawberry shortcake at Aunt Lila’s house, but then have no recall of a major event, like the day astronaut John Glenn came to town.

So, I started writing my memoirs. If I was that careless with my past, I needed to do some serious archeological digging before everything was lost. It all started with the death of John Glenn in December 2016, when a small group of friends from Muskingum College began sharing old memories. John and Annie were both graduates of our college and had returned to the campus in their hometown following his landing in 1962. For those of us who were graduating that spring, this was a major event, or at least it was for those who could still remember, which didn’t seem to include me!

One friend wrote about us standing outside the house on Montgomery Street where we lived, watching the parade coming down the street with all the local band playing, celebrities riding in open-top cars, floats and a big red convertible with Annie and John waving to the crowd. Really? I don’t remember any parade.

Another friend remembered that her “soon to be husband” and his friends retrieved an old toilet from Glenn’s house basement, dragged it onto the lawn and put up a huge sign saying, “JOHN GLENN SAT HERE.” Really? How could anyone with even an ounce of humor forget that college prank?

Some of the memories were even quite personal. Sally Gripman remembered working that day in the faculty dining room and serving Eric Sevareid, who was extremely annoyed that she couldn’t provide him with iced tea. Another recalled watching reporter Nancy Dickerson (talented mother of current CBS newsman John Dickerson) sitting in the student center with curlers in her hair, “totally controlled as opposed to most of the press that was slowly going mad waiting for Glenn and trying to survive in a dry town.”

But it was the final email, which struck a blow. It read: “Jan, weren’t you the one who represented us all as a typical student to be interviewed on national TV by Nancy Dickerson? Do you have a tape of it or remember what you said?” Remember what I said? I can’t even remember being interviewed!

I have concluded that some memories must be so eventful and heavy with meaning that they simply sink to the bottom of the mind and are never heard from again. Clearly, I must have been somewhere in outer space doing my own orbit around the earth on that particular day. Did I mention that I was sometimes referred to as an “airhead” during my college years? That’s a memory I recall with ease.

Image courtesy of NASA.

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