As a high school freshman, I sat in the school counselor’s office, counting numbers backward. To test my aptitude, he told me a series of random numbers (36, 71, 42, and so on) and asked me to recite them backward. I got a perfect score every time. I didn’t understand why he was so impressed—my memory has always been strong.
A powerful recall runs in my family. My great-grandmother touched my curly hair and ruminated. When she lost her hair to diphtheria as a young girl, she felt devastated. But when it grew back curly, she felt joyful. I learned from her that visual cues and feelings are keys to retrieving memories.