State Capitals… and Why I Need to Remember Stuff

I never liked to memorize anything.  Multiplication tables in 4th grade are my only claim to fame in that department.  And that was only because we got to move up the line and get out the door faster for lunch.

I can be bribed with food.

But I do admire people who effortlessly rattle off a famous quote or a Bible verse.  And I think how nice it would be to drop the perfect little set of words into a conversation and be thought of as brilliant.

My oldest son is brilliant.

He started reading the sunday funnies when he was about three and a half.  He could build a Lego castle and knew his numbers, letters, colors and shapes long before he started school.  Unfortunately, none of his early teachers knew this.  I think he thought his brilliance was supposed to be a secret.

I suspect my home phone must have been on speed dial at the school office.  I met with teachers and principals…we talked and strategized and planned to no avail.  The kid just didn’t like school work.

One year he was required to memorize each state’s capital city.  He didn’t want to.

I finally met with him and his teacher over this disastrous state of affairs.  Teacher explained the need to memorize and that he would fail geography if he did not.  I’ll never forget Ian’s response…

“why do I have to memorize the capital of each state when I can look at a map or read a book?”

Why, indeed.

He said out loud what I had only dared think my entire life.

Fortunately this teacher was fond of Ian.  We lived in a small Alaskan community where bonds of friendship were strong.  He was equally fond of her… but apparently not enough to do his work.

So she offered the bribe….

…if he would recite each capital city and corresponding state, she would arrange for her husband, an air force pilot, to take him on a tour of Elmendorf Air Force Base.  It was an offer he couldn’t refuse and before we knew it he was off to air force heaven on a bright, sunny Saturday.

That same school year, I learned he was in danger of failing English.  Soon after that revelation was the Birchwood Elementary School spelling bee.  Participation was mandatory.  The little brothers and I were there to cheer him on.

Ian survived round after round.  His teacher was giddy.  “He might just win this thing” she squealed as she grabbed my elbow, jumping up and down.

And he did. 

He went on to the Alaska State Spelling Bee championship and made it to the next to the last round.

Just think… the kid who was failing English could spell like the wind.

But I digress…. back to memorization.

Now that I’m living the role of adult caregiver I find myself reeling from time to time by hurtful words slung my way… not necessarily intended to wound, but they do.

When you hear the negative repeatedly… and you’re tired… it’s easy to let it sink in and have its way with you.

So I’ve been trying to remember… what was that verse my grandma often quoted?  Where is that scripture my mom shared last week?  Why doesn’t any of this good stuff stick in my mind?

I’ve been regretting my lazy, non-memorizing ways.

When I’m alone and discouraged I need to be able to pick encouragement out of the air.

So I found some small index cards.  And I write verses on them.  And I stick them in my pockets… where I forget about them until I’ve run a load of clothes thru washer and dryer.  They come out all waded and smooshed and way beyond readable.

But I won’t quit.  There’s still some memorizing ability in this old brain.  I’m starting with the short ones…..

“Love never fails”… 1 Corinthians 13:8

There.  I like that.  And no food bribes… just the satisfaction of truth and love filling my soul.

5 thoughts on “State Capitals… and Why I Need to Remember Stuff

  1. My son did adequately well in his school studies, and while he was content with that, we weren’t. We knew he could excel, if only he wanted to. After high school graduation he coasted for a couple years, enjoying the novelty of good pay cheques, until boredom set in. Then he enrolled in a college, took courses with a purpose in mind, pulled off a 98% average and has had a satisfying career ever since. Motivation is a powerful thing. 🙂


    1. Yes, motivation is powerful! The son I wrote of took a round-about way, but he eventually ended up in the aviation field, which was always his favorite thing. It’s amazing what we can do when we find our “happy place” 🙂


  2. There is an Einstein quote, something to the effect that he wouldn’t fill his mind with useless facts that he could look up in a book. He had more important and interesting things to think about. Your son was right on target!
    I have trouble with memorizing, too. Verses come to me in snatches rather than whole. Then, I get frustrated thinking, what was the rest of that verse? But, it is good to be working towards filling our hearts and minds with the Lord (Phil 4:8).


  3. Courtney

    Robert & Ian sound very much alike. Now, if only his teachers & I could work out some bribes that he actually cared about…that would be great. 🙂


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