For most things irrelevant (and irreverent) I have an excellent memory – almost photographic. But when it comes to names it falls embarrassingly short. So very often, a friend, an acquaintance, a relative will bump into me, faces will light up in mutual recognition and the other will say, ‘Hi, Wendy, how are you?’ and I will respond appropriately while all the time searching frantically in the attics of my mind for the name that matches the face. Sometimes, I do come up with a name but invariably it is the wrong one – a name for a sister, a brother or a lookalike!
Friends soon got to know and helped me out by stating their name clearly as in, ‘Hi, Wendy, Elaine, how are you?’ What a relief! But for the most part, I am left groping, and so I employ a defense mechanism – I develop an association, a kind of mental image, with the name. Michael is an archangel, Rose is a flower, Oscar as in the awards, Clementine as in the song, Caesar is a Roman emperor, Patrick is definitely Irish, Henry is, metaphorically speaking, the one with six wives, and so on. This works well when you are speaking of the person to a third party, because you have time to flip through the album of all the ‘pictures’ you have created. But when you are confronted by the person and require instant recall, the situation can still be fraught.
I could never remember our Parish Office Assistant’s name. I knew it, but I could never remember it. So, I created a word picture (as usual) and the association was with an American President. One day, when I was in the office with him, I was going through the mental list: Lincoln Abraham (no), Washington George (no), Adams John (no), Jefferson Thomas (no), Jackson Andrew (no) – oh dear! And then I hit it. Of course! Franklin as in Benjamin and Roosevelt! So happy was I that I exclaimed aloud, ‘That’s it! Franklin!’ The office assistant, who had his nose in the Parish register, jumped out of his seat: ‘What happened?’ Sheepishly, I replied, ‘Nothing. I just remembered your name.’ Frequent encounters ensure that I no longer have a problem when I meet him, but he always gives me a wary smile, nevertheless.
Now that I am older, memory lapses are more acceptable and I take full advantage, ‘Take pity on my grey hair, and remind me once again, your name is?’ Being a senior citizen allows for discounts in more than one area, as I am delighted to discover.Now, where on earth did I leave my keys?