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I have a pretty terrible memory, which is unfortunate. My children are forever saying to me, “Do you remember when..” and I look at them blankly, shaking my head.
I’ve always taken comfort in what Flannery O’Connor said about her own issues: “Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me.”
Which is part of the reason why I write and what I found so personally helpful about teaching. The best way for me to remember things is to relate them to someone else.
But I do remember a few things with startling specificity – usually, as you might expect, things with particular personal resonance or of great interest to me.
Take January 23, 1993. I remember that. Okay, so I didn’t remember the date until I looked it up, but I did remember it was the Saturday after Clinton’s first inauguration. And I was attending a workshop for catechists. In attendance at the workshop was an older religious sister. At one point, we were sitting next to each other and the new administration in Washington came up.
The sisters was dismayed. “Did you hear what President Clinton did?”
I nodded.
(If by chance, you have forgotten: Jan. 22: President Clinton reverses years of pro-life progress by issuing five executive orders reversing Title 10 regulations banning abortion referral by federal employees, repealing the Mexico City Policy restricting federal funding of international organizations that work to reverse countries’ abortion laws, negating the ban on funding for fetal tissue transplants, ordering military hospitals to perform abortions, and asking the FDA to “review” the import ban on RU 486.”)
Yes, I’d heard about that.
“I just can’t believe he did that,” Sister continued. “I don’t understand why he would do those things. I supported him.”
I was surprised, but not really. I tried to point out to Sister that President Clinton had run on an abortion rights platform supported in word and funds by abortion-rights groups, and reversal of these policies was a stated and clear goal of these groups.
She just shook her head again. “I still can’t believe it.”
And we gathered up our things and moved on to the next workshop.

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