Thinking about memory

I've been thinking about memory, having seen Memento over the weekend. Childhood memories, school memories, bad memories, collective memories…

I seem to have a vivid memory, stretching way way back, replaying scenes like movies: standing at the sink washing dishes with my mom, suds up to my elbows. I'm standing on a chair because I'm too short to reach the sink. It must be 1979, 1980 at the latest, summer, the door to the back porch is open. My mom and I are chatting, I think about dinner, about Maple Syrup Chicken, one of my favorite meals. All of a sudden, we hear a tremendous crash outside on the street. We rush out, I remember not even drying my hands, out to the street in front of our house with suds up to elbows to see our car, a silver VW Rabbit which had been parked on the street, smashed into the light post in front of our house. In the middle of Richmond Avenue was a car, a sedan, with the back smashed in, and an afghan hanging from the crumpled trunk. Further down the street, a smashed third car—the culprit who'd run the red light, hit the sedan, which spun and smashed our Rabbit into the light post.

I remember this all like it was yesterday. But I couldn't have been older than 8 when it happened. Does my mom remember the same things? Does she remember it at all? How do groups remember? When everything is viewed through a separate set of eyes, is it even possible to remember the "same" thing? How do collectives remember? Or countries? How does America remember? The Library of Congress has a project called "American Memory, Historical Collections for the National Digital Library." Lose yourself in images and narratives and history, a country's collective memory.

How do you remember things? Do you have a good memory?