Remembrances of things past

It's the middle of April and the significance of this for a family that includes a high-school senior extends beyond tax deadlines. The greater significance is that there are only a few weeks left until National Decision Day, ie May 1, by which date seniors are supposed to decide which college they will attend (of those to which they've been accepted). This involves a flurry of activity–prolonged conversations between parents and students, students and students, parents and parents; reading and rereading of college view books and websites; deep analysis of financial bottom lines and savings balances; and cross-city or cross-country travel to have a first-hand look (or a second look) at the front-runner(s).

With a high-school senior in my house, we are in the throes of this final phase of the college decision process. For us it means all of the above in terms of activities. In fact, we just returned from a visit to a college, and a city, we'd never been to before. Both were impressive. I would have been happy to become a student again.

One thing I noticed as we were exploring, however, was that my husband and I often found ourselves saying to each other and to our son, "That building looks like [such and so building from our city]" or "Doesn't he look like [that guy from your high school]" or "Doesn't this restaurant remind you of [that restaurant on our last vacation]" or "Doesn't that smell remind you of [that time we visited ...]." And so on.

Why are we so eager to connect something new with something we are familiar with? Why is it so hard to just keep one's associative memory silent, one's mouth closed, and just take in a new experience as something fresh and unattached to a past?

Maybe the occasion of this weekend's travel made it particularly easy to fall into this pattern because although we may be preparing to launch an 18-year-old son to college, we certainly don't want to disassociate with all that has gone on before. We want to be reminded. We want him to be reminded, to be seeing links to his past as he moves into his future.