Wednesday, February 15, 2017


One day after Valentines Day and I thought of Hermans.

In 1980 my mother and father came up to visit when I was renting a house on Cape Cod.  My mom was reading the book Ordinary People.  This concerned me.  Mom at that time was a few months past 55 years old.  It concerned me because I knew that she had read the book previously.  I asked her why she was reading the book again.  She said,she thought it had seemed familiar.  Years later when she was in her 80s, I was visiting my folks in their condo. She was reading The Laws of Our Fathers.  She was really into this novel and was, with excitement, telling me about the story.  I knew she had read it just a few years earlier.

What do we remember and what do we forget?

The other night we were watching a Columbo rerun.  Donna said we had seen the episode previously--more than once.  I said I had no recollection of having seen it.  She looked at me strangely.  I saw the entire episode again and I had the eerie feeling that I had, indeed, seen it before, but the fact is that I did not remember much about it including the surprise ending which surprised me in a way that if I'd seen it previously, I should not have been surprised.  A few times recently my brother has said something like, " remember when... " I'll respond and say that I was not there. He gives me a look and says, "Cmon. You were there!" And then incredulously "You don't remember when dad said...!" And I have no recollection of it.

With me, those things are atypical.  My ability to recall minutiae has startled others at high school, college, and camp reunions. I become the go-to guy for trivia in the past.  I find myself listening to friends recount events inaccurately.  Good friends, contemporaries, talk about incidents and alter them so that these distorted recountings are chilling.  I'll say to myself "Can they really think that happened that way?"

What do we remember and what do we forget?

I got to thinking about Hermans yesterday.  For those of my vintage and even for those a bit younger we will recall when our noggins are jostled that Hermans was a chain sporting goods store.  Go into Hermans and you could buy anything from golf pants to a tennis racquet to a basketball, to football spikes, to a ski jacket.  It had everything sports. I remember when I lived in Buffalo there was one downtown and likely were several in the suburban malls. I lived downtown and on Memorial Day 1975 my roommate and I got a hankering to play tennis. We were happily surprised that Hermans was open on the holiday, drove down Main Street and bought some tennis balls. I think I got a tennis shirt as well.

Hermans now is a trivia item. To write this next sentence accurately I went on line and read that the company went out of business in 1996, and had filed for bankruptcy three years earlier.  Having started in the early parts of the 20th century it ended 80 some years later. Hung around for nearly a century and now is essentially a forgotten piece of retail history.

I  don't know why I started to think about Herman's, but when I did it triggered a notion about Valentine's Day.

Hermans could have lasted 8 decades but is now forgotten. What we don't forget, however, is 8 months, or 8 weeks or 8 days, when our heart has been touched. We don't forget about love.

People might embellish the nature of relationships, and exaggerate events.  I have heard cronies talk about old girlfriends and incidents with them which I know for a fact to be exaggerations because I was standing right there at the time, either because I double dated with them or attended the same event.  But real engagement, true love..we don't forget that.

My mother may have forgotten that she had read Ordinary People, but she never really forgot how much she loved my father.  Maybe they couldn't agree on where they spent their first vacation, but how they felt about each other that was seared into the heart.

We don't forget the thrill and insane wonderful sensation of being in love. And on Valentine's Day, unless we actively work to suppress it, those feelings waft up and can be intoxicating.

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