My memory is like Jell-O

I wanted to bring something to Easter dinner at my friends Meg and Harold’s place because they were nice enough to invite me over and save me from spending the day alone, biting the ears off chocolate bunnies. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try the recipe for Jell-O 1 2 3 I’d found on the Internet years ago and had always wanted to try. They stopped selling Jell-O 1 2 3 mix in the 90’s, and since then it’s been the food product I miss second most, right after Almost Home Sugar Cookies.

Let’s just say the experiment did not reach a happy conclusion. Although the end product tasted fairly good, it was only one layer instead of three. I’d also used cherry Jell-O, so it looked like I’d made a big bowl of congealed pig’s blood for dessert. I ended up buying a cheesecake from the store instead and was grateful Harris Teeter is open on Easter. Afterwards I went online to see if I could figure out what went wrong with the recipe. Perhaps my Cool Whip to Jell-O ratio was off? Did I not blend it long enough? I asked Google and when I scrolled down the first page of results I saw this:

PastaQueen's Not-So-Secret Recipes

It was a link to my old blog, an entry called PastaQueen’s Not-So-Secret Recipes: Jell-O 1-2-3. Yes, dear readers, it turns out I not only tried to make Jell-O 1 2 3 before, I also forgot that I’d tried to make Jell-O 1 2 3 before. I’m betting some of my longtime readers figured this out after reading the first paragraph, saying to themselves, “Wait, didn’t she already make that a few years ago?” I was clueless until Google clued me in. I documented the process with images, which is the only reason I believe this must have happened, though I have no real memory of it. In fact, one of the images Google displayed at the top of the search results page was of my own experiment, which I had completely overlooked!

Google images for Jell-O 123

I’ve drawn two main lessons from this incident. The first is, that as disturbing as it might be to admit, we forget most of our lives. Yeah, we remember the important things, the life-changing moments good and bad, the surprises. But the time I spend flossing or making coffee or driving to work etc. etc. is not going to be remembered several days from now. The time I spent making a dessert forgotten by time is not memorable enough to make my life’s greatest hits list. There are a handful of people who have amazing autobiographical memory, called Hyperthymesia, who can remember practically everything that’s happened to them. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I’m definitely not one of them nor are most of us.

The second lesson is that our forgetfulness is one of the single best arguments for keeping a journal or a blog. I like to remember what I’ve forgotten. Had I not blogged about my Jell-O experiment I would have no idea I’d forgotten it. What other things have I forgotten about my life that I’ll never know about because I didn’t document them? One of the things I regret the most about not blogging as much lately is knowing that I am losing the experiences and thoughts I’ve had in that time. The Jell-O post was published five years and seven months ago. I have no way of knowing how I will have changed in another five years and seven months, but I’d like the opportunity to reflect on those changes after they happen, even if the person I am now might be embarrassing to the person I will be. Our past selves are almost always embarrassing in some way, aren’t they?

If I don’t remember the things that happen to me, I seem to be doomed to repeat them. It makes me think of an episode of RadioLab I heard in which a woman temporarily loses the ability to make short term memories. (Start at the 6:40 mark.) She got better within a day, don’t worry. But while she was sick she could only remember the last two minutes, so she got stuck in a loop asking the same questions over and over again and reacting in the same way over and over again. It’s sort of funny and also sort of scary that our reactions to events could be so predictable.

I seem to be stuck in a loop in which I discover a recipe for Jell-O 1 2 3 and think that I should try that. Then I forget and rediscover the recipe and try it all over again. Even if I don’t remember all my thoughts or opinions or how I’ve changed over the years, at the very least I’d like to remember that I should never attempt to make Jell-O 1 2 3 again. It’s a lost cause, Jennette! Don’t do it! Please remember to read this five years and seven months from now.

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  1. JenFul says

    @Natalie – I poured it into a big bowl this time instead of into cups, which might have made a difference. I think it was more a presentation issue than a flavor problem.

  2. Jen says

    Ha, I am a longtime reader, and yes, I WAS thinking “didn’t she do this once before?”. Honestly, it’s a joke among my family/friends that I have a great memory for trivial things but not for important things. I would never forget I tried to make JellO 123, but I once lost a tax refund check before I cashed it, and if it weren’t for auto bill pay my car would be repossessed. So, really, you’re prob better off wih your memory!

  3. says

    I use my blog like a personal journal (dates, events, experiences, etc). I find the query function very helpful to go back and find things.

    Every once in a while something comes up in the family, that I do not remember having happened. Not very often because I have a good memory for munutiae, but every once in a while, something is just GONE from my memory. Very strange feeling.

  4. Maggie says

    This post reminded me of the episode of “Louie” where Louis C.K. goes to Mark Maron’s house to apologize for being such a jerk to him five years ago, and Maron informs him that this is the 2nd time he’s made the apology. It’s clear that Maron thinks he’s being a jerk all over again, since the incident meant so little to him that he forgot all about it. Hilarious episode of a hilarious series.

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