Sunday, March 06, 2005

Lost (Noun) Weekend

Verbatim conversation I had with a friend, also a mother, about someone she might know socially:

Me: Do you know Michael O’Neill?

Friend: The name sounds familiar.

M: He’s got kids the same age as ours. Also, he’s an actor, he was in….that movie….about a horse….it starred….What’s-his-name. Michael played…What’s-his-names father.

Friend looks blank.

M: (frustrated) you know What’s-his-name! He was… (Making motion of jabbing the open heel of my palm at her face…).

F: Oh, him! The one in…the horse movie. With that actor…from the…flower movie.

M: Yes. Him!

To an outsider, we sounded like a meeting of the Stroke Victims Support Club. In less than two minutes, we couldn’t remember the words Tobey Maguire, Seabiscuit, Chris Cooper or Adaptation. I completely forgot the name of Spiderman, a movie that was seen twice by every living creature on the planet, including krill and germs (yet, I could remember the gesture for throwing out a spider web). So, what I am asking today is: does anyone out there still have nouns readily available to them?

This is karmic retribution, I know. I used to tell my mother that living with her was an endless game of “$20,000 Pyramid”-

Mother: Have you seen the (making whirling gesture with her hands)?
Quinn: Things that are kitchen tools?
Mother: No, it’s a machine.
Quinn: Things that clean our clothes?
Mother: (frustrated) NO, you use keys in it.
Quinn: Things that are cars?
Mother: Yes! (Beat) Have you seen it?

And Consort endlessly uses my brain to file proper nouns that he isn’t using right now, and has no compunction about calling me from meetings-

Consort: Who is that actress I’m thinking of?
Quinn: I’m going to need more than that.
Consort: She was in the movies with…the brothers, she was always annoyed, and she wore jewelry.
Quinn: Margaret Dumont?
Consort: Thank you.
Quinn: You’re welcome. Please lose my phone number.

I didn’t mind providing this service to my mother; it meant that when I was annoyed with her, I could choose to keep a vital noun to myself and watch her writhe in frustration. I chalked up the holes in Consort’s memory to having gone to an art college and having had many chances to recreate pharmaceutically.

I was smug in the knowledge that I remembered everything. My brain was made of some kind of Velcro-like material that would serve me well for life. The fifth lead in a movie that I saw once; the names of Henry VIII’s wives, in order; the name of my parents’ silver pattern; I remembered it all. What no one could have convinced me of is that all of that information would stay forever, because none of those things are important. When brain damage comes, as it inevitably does after you give birth, the noun-sucking virus begins with essential words. I didn’t believe the word “Napkin” would leave my brain so thoroughly that I would be forced to say to a salesman,” I need eight…things…that you put in your lap when you are eating. Or tie around your neck if you’re having lobster. In blue, please”. The look of pity that crossed his face won’t leave me soon. I’m convinced he discreetly smelled my breath for schnapps. Had there been any history of Alzheimer’s in my family, I’d be at the Doctor’s office weekly.

At first, I thought that it was merely a function of sleep deprivation. There were points in the first year of Daughter’s life when I would lie down and start dreaming before I went to sleep, I was that tired. How could I possibly be expected to remember the name for the glass thing in the wall of my house, which you open for fresh air? When the sleep slowly eased back in and the symptoms persisted, I chalked it up to being a full-time, stay at home mother. I longed for the day when she went to school and I could converse with the wit of a Dorothy Parker, only sober and not suicidal (which really isn’t Dorothy Parker any more, now that I think about it). But, she’s in school now and I get enough sleep to safely operate heavy machinery, and the nouns are still gone. Apparently, the brain damage is permanent so I should just accept it and start carrying a sketch pad to carry me over the difficult spots.

The only people I can talk to these days are other parents. I need to know that I won’t be judged when I point to my purse and describe something as
“You know, like this, only you take them on planes. Sometimes they have wheels”. I also now understand why couples tend to socialize with other couples. It isn’t, at least in my case, fear of some nubile single woman reminding Consort that he is still a man [as long as I have taken half of his clothing to an unknown dry cleaner, he’s sticking around.] We socialize with other couples so that no one mocks us when one of us says “Oh, you know her. Small child who lives with us. What is her name?”

5 Comments:

Blogger Greg said...

Just wanted to say Thanks! Your blog leaves me in stitches every time I read it. Other than your eating disorder, you capture our life far more eloquently than we ever could. Keep up the good work -how *do* you find the time?

8:34 AM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

You are welcome, and we of the eating indifferent prefer to think of it as a quirk. As I have written, Daughter takes classes in everything but Interpretive Soccer, which leaves me plenty of time to sit in hallways and write. It makes me feel as if I am accomplishing something.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Suganya Shree said...

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3:11 AM  
Blogger Suganya Shree said...

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3:14 AM  
Anonymous Lisa J said...

OK, so I'm reading this to my husband across the living room, and I'm snorting so hard that I have to re-read every third sentence once, maybe twice. When I got to the part about pointing to your purse I was laughing so hard I could have sworn I was about to have a...thing...you know, where one of those tubes that the blood runs through burst in your...thing...you know, the thinking part of your head...an aneurysm! Ahhh, nouns.

Love your blog!

9:59 PM  

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