Loose Ends: Placing only a face

Dolly Viscardi
One skill I developed over many years of teaching was remembering names. I prided myself on it and had no problems recognizing students (mine and others, as well) years later. When I had difficulty remembering daily details, where I put my keys or important books or papers, I never forgot the names. It wasn’t until I stopped teaching that I realized the key to my success had not been my well-developed memory; I remembered faces.
The job required I attach a name to the face, whether it be for the children, other teachers, parents or other staff members. Retiring to work from home, the only faces I saw were my family and friends, and remembering their names required little skill at all. As a student myself, mnemonic clues were the ones I used to remember important dates in history, geographical locations or elementary skills that everyone simply absorbs — calendar details, etc.
It is hard to tell if other adults have to recite, “30 days hath September, April, June, and November, all the rest have 31, except for February which has 28.” My second-grade teacher clued me into that little memory trick in second grade and I never again made a mistake. My third-grade teacher came up with another method to handle the names of the presidents by giving us a couple of sentences to commit to memory. If you are not familiar with this memory trick, you only take the first letter of each word to remember the name of the President. “Will” recalls Washington, “A: remembers Adams, J brings back Jefferson and so on.
That skill doesn’t come up often, so I now am reduced to remembering part of the first sentence, “Will A Jolly Man Make …” (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, etc.) It worked for the time period that I needed it, as we were quizzed regularly. Names and dates continued to be pulled from the murky depths of my gray matter with use of such tricks.
These days for some reason, the tricks aren’t working. If I have used some sort of clue previously to remembering names, I have forgotten it. I understand why my brain refuses to let me complete the sentence to recall all the names of the United States presidents, but it might as well take the whole memory as I tend to try and complete the sentence. It is not unlike the amusement everyone gets from children trying to fill in the blank of a well-known expression, such as a stitch in time … (saves nine). What will a jolly man do? My mind is in a panic and throws out things like, smile and wave? It just makes me feel better to pretend if I needed the information, it would be there for me in an instant.
When I recognize someone who greets me by name and the face is a little familiar, I just go for it. All the faces of their brothers and sisters, or mother or father, flash before me. Unfortunately, my brain is not a portrait gallery. It doesn’t list the faces in order. And if I have committed a new face to memory, the name gets lost in the recall. The odd thing is names of people I have never known seem to float in front of the face. So, if I have offended you (young and old alike) by calling you by such names as Mildred, Harry or April, please accept my apologies. I can place the face, just not the name.
— dolly@theheraldtimes.com