I double checked dates. For example, I knew that Franco had died on November 20, 1975, but I couldn’t name the day. When research showed it had been on a Thursday, a school day for my daughters, I felt a flush of details that I would not have remembered otherwise. It turned out the details had significance.
I looked at maps and old photographs and I had the benefit of my husband’s writing. The last time my daughter saw her father, a few months before his death, he gave her his unfinished autobiography. By that time much of it was familiar to me. I didn’t need the history, so to speak. But what I gained from it was Alberto’s voice. All I had to do was translate it. In the memoir I was able to retell Alberto’s Civil War experiences verbatim. And when it came to creating dialogue or expressing my husband’s opinions about education or government, for example, I had no doubts. He had confirmed everything clearly in that stack of yellowing pages.
As for remembering details—I have a quirky memory, unfortunately, not for anything practical like phone numbers or passwords. My daughters tease me. “Ask mom what she had for lunch or dinner on any given day, she’ll be able to tell you.”
Aside from food, I remember first impressions. For years my Spanish life unfolded one powerful first impression after another. Everything and everybody was new and exotic and memorable. Those Firsts are indelible for me. Do you remember your first kiss? Or your first car? Funny, now that I think of it. I don’t remember my first car at all, but I remember the way the vegetable vendor in Madrid wrapped tomatoes in a cone he made from newspaper. Just a quirky memory for details, I guess.
No, I never kept a journal. You can imagine how often I wished I had.