It was just two years ago that I learned a completely new-to-me use of the word “memorialize” when I heard James Comey (followed by news anchors, pundits, and especially legal analysts )describe having “memorialized” all his conversations with then-president, Donald Trump.
As I say in my sidebar, “Context is everything,” and at least to me, the use of any form of “memorial” generally refers to commemorating someone or something lost and revered. We celebrate the lives of presidents and civil leaders; honor those who fought and died in war; and remember tragedies that we want to ensure nobody forgets.
But “memorialize” a conversation? Definitionally, I suppose it works: The second listed definition for “memorialize” according to oed.com (accessible for free via most public library websites with your library card, FYI) reads, "To preserve the memory of; to be or supply a memorial of; to commemorate."
The idea “to preserve the memory of” particularly interests me. As Comey, et al.’s usage seems common in legal practice, I suppose attending law school would have forced my surprise a couple decades ago rather than in 2019.
But even outside any legal context, I love the idea of “memorializing” in this manner, and in my case, I suppose I enjoy memorializing, well ... everything.
You see, I’m a packrat. Obviously I don’t refer to the actual rodent; but rather “a person who collects or hoards especially unneeded items.”
In my case, any metaphorical resemblance to the genus Neotoma is a genetic anomaly that I can definitely trace back at least two generations on my paternal side.
For at least the last half-century of his life, my dad memorialized nearly every life event—large or small—in his pocket “Day-at-a-Glance” calendar. He kept copious notes concerning anything he considered important or interesting, categories that often included items others would have found esoteric or anodyne.
He also kept everything. Though I was always cognizant of this fact, until he passed away, and I spent several hours perusing his files, I never actually knew to what extent.
I found old correspondence not just from family and friends, but to them as well, for he composed everything on his beloved typewriter using carbon paper so he could retain an instant duplicate. He not only had my old report cards and similar personal memorabilia; he had his own elementary, middle, and high school report cards. Externally, unless you lived with him at some point—wall-to-wall bookshelves, not withstanding—you may never notice his hoarding tendencies because he was extremely organized; anal, even, meticulously filing and labeling everything.
To be fair to my father (and, I suppose by extension, to myself as well), I can state with certainty that he inherited these qualities from his mother, my grandmother. Fifty years of photo albums—well-organized and (mostly) thematically and/or temporally consistent—squeezed in to the den’s built-in shelves of my grandparents’ apartment provide just one of many examples.
Before moving out of the apartment, she asked if anyone in our family wanted to take these albums. She thought, for example, that I might want the one she had made for my parents’ 1965 wedding.
Sure. Perfectly normal. As is keeping event-specific printed items, such as a cocktail napkin or matchbook. (1965, remember?) But what about ...
For when I first looked through my parents’ wedding album, included on one page with the aforementioned cocktail napkin and matchbook, I discovered what by that point was an approximately 40-year-old cookie from the reception. It sat in a crushed paper serving bowl, clinging to the sticky album page, under the cellophane cover sheet.