Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19th, 1969

Remembering the Numbers of my Life in Living Color

"Nanny, Trouble and the Kaiser," ca 1950. My grandmother, "Nanny" as I called her, a black cat named Trouble, and the family's 1948 Kaiser sedan.

1905—My grandmother at the age of ten, with her much older step brother and sister. 

With her daughter Hoohoo, 1947, with Hoohoo's brand new husband's brand new Harley Davidson.

ca 1920, at the Indian Point House Hotel, Stony Creek, Connecticut.

1924, Hammonassett Beach, not more than a mile from where I live today.

Early 1940s. Dig the short fur cape and the period wallpaper! Garden Club or lunch with the ladies, I'm sure.

1918-1919, a fun day with friends.

1918-19, the same day as the photo above this one. This is her very own 1915 Model T Runabout. I've posted this photo before and mentioned that I still have the windshield, steering wheel, a cowl lamp and several headlamp lenses. 

R E M E M B RA N C E   O F   S O R T S — Forty-one years ago today, December 19th, 1969, the only grandmother I ever knew died. Now don't worry, this isn't going to be some maudlin, sad, down-at-the-heels post. I was twelve years old, she was a great lady, and in some ways, thus began the downfall of my family, but this post is really about dates and numbers and an odd feature of my brain. And an excuse to post some cool old photos!

I have a bad memory of sorts, I always have. Well, for one thing, I suffered some extreme emotional trauma at the ages of 5-6, which resulted in my repressing memories of that period until I was 46 years old, but I'll save that sorry chapter for my book. No, I'm talking about my short term memories of everyday, ordinary things—what I ate for breakfast, what clothes I'm wearing right now if you make me close my eyes, the title of the book I worked 40 hours on last week. Sometimes, if put on the spot, I forget the names of people I've known for years. I might forget who I've just dialed on the phone until they answer! As a child, my parents sometimes thought I was kidding around with them because they knew I wasn't "slow" lol, but my memories of the mundane have always been very will-o-the-wisp. 

Dates and numbers on the other hand, are etched in my brain like on the proverbial stone. I remember the dates of every family member's birth and death, year and day. I remember my elementary school friends' phone numbers. I remember casual acquaintances birthdays from college, 35 years ago. I remember my college mailbox number, my college ID number, every street address I've ever lived at, my driver's license number, and not only my social security number, but my mother's and father's SS numbers. The secret? No, I'm not Rain Man and it's not mathematical, that's for sure. I remember numbers and dates in shapes and colors and it's seemingly neurological in nature.

I have a mild case of synesthesia, the mixing of senses. In its most common form, people see letters and numbers in their minds as colors. They may also see them in their mind's eye in 3D, and I have both of those conditions to a degree. I also mix up sight and sound, I remember seeing yellow songs coming out of the radio, the incessant red barking of our German Shepherd. Mostly though, my long-term memories are overcast in shades of colors, like my grandmother is almost always a pale gold, my father is in many bright colors, my mother is a lavender and my "bad" memories are brown. Whenever I think about a date in time, or a phone number, the numerals float in my head in colors and three dimensional fonts, and they scroll going backwards, further from the "front"of my head, almost like the script at the beginning of the first Star Wars movie. Is it it any wonder I ended up loving typography?  

Sure, it would be nice to not get lost in a conversation sometimes, or look like a fool when an editor at the publisher asks me which book I produced for them last week and I have NO idea, but on the other hand, I'm pretty sure this is where my art comes from. I don't know for certain if my bad lifelong, short-term memory comes from the incorrect "wiring" in my brain. My need to put down the memories I DO have in living color, every single living color at times, just might be an outgrowth of this condition. Growing up I always "blamed" my mother's old eggs for my brain, she was 40 when she had me in 1957. Or it could have been her doctor in Germany that told her to drink a daily glass of white wine from the Mosel River for morning sickness when she was carrying me, rofl, but I now see my mixed up senses as a blessing rather than a curse. 

I'm a bit different. So what? I'm pretty used to it by now!


  1. And were pretty used to it to! Differences are what make us all unique. I'm glad you've learned to understand and use them to your advantage. I wouldn't want you any other way !




  3. That was a nice pictorial story you told of your grandmother.

    I know my grandkids love me but they also are all scared to death of me, not sure why my bark is way much worse than my bite. [X of course would not agree with that statement. lol]

  4. Thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures of your grandmother and for going into detail about how you see the world. It's interesting that nowadays people are having babies at 40 and no one thinks anything of it and back then no one thought anything of drinking alcohol and/or smoking while pregnant. The more things change....

    Paul, NYC

  5. And times change. Just recently the medical community has started saying that maybe a little alcohol during your pregnancy is a GOOD thing!

    Casey, you are a gem. Bad short term memory and all. :)


  6. Some very well-known artists had forms of synesthesia including David Hockney and Kandinsky. Also, musicians and composers are affected - Liszt and Messiaen come to mind, both of whom created music that was "out of its world" in their time.

  7. Thanks, Brian, I didn't know that. My original post was about twice as long, but I edited it. I touched on the color of music to me, ie the yellow songs from a radio, but I edited out that I also have it the other way. When I'm working on applying colors to my art, besides the visual of each color, I instantly know when I've added a stripe that's "wrong" because it's like hitting a wrong note when I'm playing the piano. I can instantly hear a wrong color creating dissonance with the others, it's like a "plink." I have a degree in music composition but it all got so confusing for me. After school I gave up music except for playing the piano once or twice a year for 10 minutes... Painting and working with images is simpler and more soothing to me.

  8. Casey, your family looks SO interesting! Your granny looks like she must have been a ton of fun...was she??
    Also, I find the information on how you see things so interesting...that has to part of the "art" in you...Thanks for is just fascinating to think of how you see things and how that translates to your life and art!

  9. unfortunately my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer when I was only 6 and died when I was 12, but from what my mother said, my grandmother was always the life of the party and loved to laugh and have a good time. I knew her as a very warm and loving and doting grandmother that in the last couple of years always told everyone that I had helped her to walk again. She had breast cancer and then it spread to her bones, and she was in a wheelchair for a long time. She had a walker, and I would stand in front of her and pull the walker out one step at a time and then she'd grab it and walk into it. then i'd pull it out another step and she'd walk into that and we finally got all the way across the livingroom after a month or so. I kept the chair behind her if she needed to sit down. I was only 7-8 years old, and adored her. We had fun watching old westerns on TV and talking. she taught me to make tomato sauce and how to knit and perl. just like her daughter, Hoohoo, i'm really sorry I didn't get to spend more time with them. I was born too late!