I remember having amnesia.
I was eleven years old and in the hospital and unable to be released because I couldn’t remember anything. But I remember.
I remember my mom taking me and my horse, Corky, to a gymkhana on a weekday morning in the summer. She had to return to her dog kennel business and groom the seven dogs that she had checked in earlier that morning. I remember feeling confident. It was no big deal to be left on my own, to be in charge of my horse for the day. She had stayed long enough to sign me up for my events—all of which I was familiar with from previous gymkhanas—and to help me find Kathryn Currier’s horse trailer. Kathryn was a mom who would be there and available if I needed anything.
I remember being in the large open space beyond the parking lot. I was with a girl, my age, a friend of mine, and we were on our horses. We held between us a length of pink flagging ribbon, ready to practice the Ribbon Race, our next event. I remember the horses running, side by side, not fast but certainly at a gallop, not a trot, their hooves pounding on the hard-packed dirt. The ground out there was rutted and littered with rocks and beer bottles and weeds that obscured these and other obstacles. I recollect the laughing as my partner and I tried to remain close, though her horse was able to run faster than mine. If we couldn’t stay within about five feet of one another, the ribbon, despite its slight give, would snap. Or we’d have to let one end go. Either way, we’d be disqualified.
I remember then that my horse spooked at something and his forward momentum shifted suddenly to the right, as if he had been struck by an oncoming vehicle after running a red light. My body slid from the saddle as I held tight to that ribbon.
My mom was in the periphery of the room. She wore Wrangler jeans as she paced back and forth along the wall. I was in a hospital gown, my first ever, a white blanket smoothed over the lower two-thirds of my body. My left hand held the phone receiver to my ear, while my right hand twisted the curly cord round and round.
I pictured the hutch behind the fence on our farm. Four separate cages. But I had no idea of the number of rabbits and no notion that that was something I should be expected to know. “I dunno,” I replied.
“I just told you!” he blurted back, a predominance of amusement in his voice, but a hint of frustration as well. I remember his voice becoming muffled then, as he turned to my older sister, who was near him in the kitchen, “She still doesn’t know how many rabbits we have!” They both laughed, hysterically.
“What time is it?” I asked, not knowing what else to talk about. I recall not minding that they were laughing at me. I wasn’t a very funny kid and it felt good to be the one triggering such glee with so little effort.
“Oh, my gosh.” The muffled voice. “Now she’s asking what time it is again!” I didn’t understand his incredulousness.
“Randee, it’s 12:12! I just told you when it was 12:10!” It was obvious that he was losing patience with me.
“Oh. Well, how many rabbits do we have?” I asked.
I learned more of the details of what happened that day, after I was home and my head had begun to heal. My foot had gotten hung up in the stirrup, and I was drug along for a ways, my head bouncing along on the hard, rutted ground. I was unconscious when they got to me.
I stayed in the hospital for two days until my memory returned. Until I could answer the rabbit question and repeat back what someone had just told me and remember everything, really.
I remember that I couldn’t remember. That my parents were worried. That my siblings were amused, then aggravated, and, when I returned home, relieved. Over the years, I heard the story told many times. And whenever someone asked what time it was, at least one member of my family would unfailingly repeat the words in a confused, little girl voice: “What time is it? What time is it?” They were mimicking but not mocking. The way I remember it, it was never about teasing. It just seemed to be their way of conveying their relief and comfort that the amnesia was temporary and that I came home and that I healed.
And that I remember.