The Pope, memories, and ……I forget.

I woke up this morning to the news of the Pope resigning (as I’m sure everyone else who uses the radio to wake up did).  This news did not affect me too drastically at 6:30 AM, I don’t usually keep an eye on papal news or even follow him on Twitter.  Yet, I found it interesting that a pope’s resignation hasn’t happened since the middle ages and it reminded me of the last time there was new Pope.  It struck me as odd, since I’m not Catholic, that I would have such distinctive memories of the various popes.

Pope John Paul II was always this guy in the picture on my grandmother’s wall.  I used to think that he looked like a nice old man, and I remembered wondering as a kid why my grandmother had stuck a plant to the frame (turns out it was a palm leaf from some long-before palm Sunday).  When he died, back in 2005, it was after she had died, and I thought back on that picture, which hung in my uncle’s old room which had become the guest bedroom.  The room had black lacquered furniture of 80s design and a zebra-like striped comforter.  I used to hide in that closet during hide and seek with my cousins, and they would always stop playing before they found me, so I spent a lot of time hanging out in there  (ah, the perils of being the youngest…not that it scarred me emotionally or anything).  I digress.

So, in 2005, when I was in college, my friend K and I were hanging out at our friend Michael’s house because he and his roommates were out of town, and we wanted to use their cable.  We also wanted space to dye our hair-  I was adding blue streaks, and she was adding hot pink (we were really rebellious, can you tell?).  I think we ordered a pizza, and made ourselves comfortable on our friend’s couches.  We started watching “Revenge of the Nerds” as the bleach set in our hair (before we added the bright “Manic Panic” colors) because it was on Comedy Central, and neither of us had seen it.  Then, a news ticker interrupted the programming saying that the pope had died.

We discussed it briefly, as we thought it was what we should do, and either K or I said: “I remember when the last Pope died and they had to do this whole transition and voting thing”, the other person agreed saying, “yes!  I remember that too!” and we began to talk about the papal conclave and the white smoke that shows that a new Pope has been elected.  We went into detail with our memories of the previous experience, but the only thing we couldn’t remember was the year.  We knew we were young, but couldn’t etch out the exact year between the two of us.  So, we looked it up (a clear advantage to living in this digital age).

1978.

Which is interesting, because neither of us had been born.  Sheepishly, we wondered how we had these memories, when, clearly, they didn’t exist (at least not for us, anyway).  We eventually (and quite embarrassedly) decided that our collective memory must have been created from Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.  The only thing that made us feel slightly better, because then our memories of seeing him in the news would make sense, was that perhaps we had instead recalled parts of a previous assassination attempt (many of which also took place before we were born, but there was one in 1995).

Memory is a strange creature, and as I listened to the radio this morning, it brought me back to that day in 2005 when my own memory betrayed me.  Not only did it betray me, but also my friend.  It was if our false memories experienced a sort of mob mentality to work against us.  It makes me wonder how many other memories I have that are not my own?   That is, a memory based in something I have read or watched on T.V., or even (I hate to think) invented purely in my own sub-conscious?

I mean, was the comforter in the guest room actually zebra print?  It wasn’t really my grandmother’s style.  Were my cousins (as kids) actually so mean as to let me sit in the closet for hours?  That one I think is probably true, but obviously it doesn’t bother me anymore (clearly).

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