The Weight of Memory
I hope my brain — and shelves — have room for 20 more years
Twenty years gives you lots to forget.
Over the two decades of Bay Weekly, I’ve lost track of plenty. So as our Earth Day birthday approaches each year, I exercise my memory by lifting our archive books off their shelves.
The book for 1993 weighs only 3.5 pounds. We didn’t start until Earth Day, and publication was fortnightly, so we printed only 19 issues that first year. The books for 2004 through 2008 are hefty, with 2006 tipping the scales at 15 pounds. Riding that economic high tide, pages multiplied. The last couple of yearbooks have been thinner. I hope this year’s volume book — titled Bay Weekly 2013 Vol. XXI — puts on some weight. But only time and advertising will tell.
No matter their weight, the books give me lots of exercise because forgetfulness sends me on many trips from closet to desk.
Even recalling all the places they’ve lived is an exercise in memory. Here at 1160 Spa Road, they live in a closet, as they did at 1629 Forest Drive. In both locations, they’ve lain flat on shelves. For seven years at 536 Deale Road, the collection stood upright on the floor under a low window-height bookshelf. That was not a good place for heavy books to live, and in consequence many of the Volume books from I to XIV have broken covers.
Where Volumes I to VII lived when we had our office at Tri-State Marine in Deale I have no idea. If you visited in those days, perhaps you remember and can remind me?
After I have carried one or another of the books onto my desk, I open it and rifle through its pages, which, being newsprint, grow increasingly brittle with age. Except for the first volume, the books are bound from year’s end back, and my journey through the pages of time begins with the uppermost number, usually 52. That’s a very convenient place to start for Volumes I through XVI because in most of those years the last issue was a retrospective of The Year That Was.
I especially like the last issues between 2002 and 2008 when the year’s date in big figures dominated the cover. Inside each number was a selection of postage-stamp replicas of favorite covers throughout that year.
(To find out the years we ran covers in that design, I had to go back to the closest and hoist out each volume book. See what I mean?)
In 2009, we figured our history was preserved in our online archives, so we gave up retrospectives for Best of the Bay. The last issue of the year is a good Best of the Bay placement, which means less work for me, but I still miss the old roundup.
Once upon a time, I believed I remembered every word in my paper, every person who wrote those words, every photographer, every artist, every sale rep, every staffer. Plus every person, place and thing we wrote about.
Now, my memory looks like grandson Jack’s favorite cheese, which is full of holes.
I am glad to say there is still cheese between the holes.
Occasionally a forgotten name sparks to life a wonderful experience. Larry Fogel is one of those, the Washington Post photographer who gave us one dear story (May 19, 2005) about saving seagulls caught in his fishing line.
Some things I remember with reassuring clarity. Yes, Kat Bennett — who wrote for us last decade — spelled her first name with a K. I’ll have to tell that to Cathryn Freeburger, who shares a contemporary acquaintance with Bennett over, of course, cats, but spells Kat with a C.
Often a name returns to me with joy: Martha Blume, Connie Dargo, April Falcon Doss, Sara Ebenrech (now Leeland), ML Faunce, Carol Glover, Chris Heagy, Nancy Hoffmann, Ben Miller, Matt Pugh, Lee Summerall, Dick Wilson, Vivian Zumstein. Those hard-working long-time contributors wrote us many wonderful stories. I haven’t forgotten them, but I’m glad to be reminded by my old volume books.
Some names are unforgettable, for they put long hours in creating these story books: Diana Beechener, Mark Burns, Sonia Linebaugh, Louis Llovio, Carrie Steele (now Madren), Margaret Tearman.
Other names make me laugh over their foibles or cringe at such follies as an under-researched story.
Still other names break my heart, for their byline will appear on no new stories: Dawn Kittrell, who died young; Bill Burton, who could not live forever; Rich ‘Doc’ Shereikis, who I am mourning as I write (see 1995). With them are too many more people who were alive when they entered our stories but are no more.
I’ll wipe away those tears because I’m only up to 2005. I have many more years to review. Each books is shockingly full of great stories and good and audacious headlines. (No wonder House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell was mad at me for the headline Delegate Nuked when he lost his job at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.)
The good news about all I’ve forgotten in 20 years is the thrill of remembering.
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; email@example.com