Friday, Jul. 30, 2004, 4:40 PM

Memories are strange things

Numerous studies have been done regarding the brain that have concluded that all memories are retained in great detail. It may not be possible for all people to recall any memory at any given time, but in open-brain surgeries surgeons have touch or otherwise stimulated (usually with an electrode or needle) some part of the brain when the patient suddenly exclaims, "Can you guys smell those freshly baked oatmeal cookies?" or "In fourth grade, on Wednesday, May the 14th I had problems with a fraction on page 32 of my math book." It has always fascinated me that every bit of information ever received by my senses is stored somewhere in that grey Jello mold of a mass that is my brain.

I bring this up because I think of this little tidbit every time I see a child who responds to me in some way. I was driving to the airport last week when a red car pulled up next to me. It had a young mother driving in the front and a young child in the back seat. The boy must have been about one your old, and he just stared at me for some time. I finally put my hands over my face and did the peek-a-boo thing and I saw him laugh. The mother looked back to see what had caused the outburst from her baby and saw him looking at me. She gave me a nice smile as I waved at the baby and pulled away from the light.

Later that day I was eating in a restaurant when another young boy came running amongst the tables pursued by a parent. He stopped dead in front of me and stared for about 20 seconds without blinking or moving or making a sound. It was almost like a deer in a headlights reaction. I finally smiled at him and said, "Hey there. How are you?" to which he responded by laughing and running away at great speed.

I find it immensely interesting that those two children will carry around that memory of me for the rest of there lives inside there head. Perhaps some day they will hit there head and recall a man who smiled at them, or receive a sense of deja vu when seeing another man with a shaved head and goatee driving a grey truck.