I spent the day writing on the grant proposal that is due soon and trying to put a finish on an unfinished coffee table while cleaning the house. It has been a boringly normal day. Work balanced against family all with a background of a dirty house.

You would think that a boring, normal day would stand out after weeks of angst and stress from the fire. It does not. It is after the day has passed that you remember what is missing is something that should not have been there to begin with. I don’t remember if I noticed normal, boring days before the fire. It is easy to believe that you remember everything from before the fire perfectly but you don’t, you remember some things and not others. Our memories are variable.

We discovered day before yesterday that the fire ate one of our hard drives. My spouse pulled all of the hard drives. I know he pulled it. He knows he pulled it. He crawled around under our desks pulling drives and reaching over his head putting them on the desks. Our best guess is that when he started stuffing them into a bag one got left. We have searched everywhere. “The Big Drive” is truly missing.

To make matters worse, the missing hard drive shows up mysteriously now and again on our network. Somehow our computers remember the drive from before the fire even though they are on a different network now. Like ours, the computer’s memory is variable.

Today I spotted the Big Drive on the network. I thought I had seen it before but when I looked it was always gone. Now it was there. It was there. Moving carefully, I clicked on it and there was stuff. A lot of stuff.  I held my breath and looked. I looked again. And again. What I saw was seemingly random information that I recognized as mine but could not remember were some of it came from or why it would be on that drive. No matter, I did not want to lose any data.

I stealthily crept up on the drive directory and when it was not looking executed a perfectly timed Ctrl A, Ctrl C and zipped over to another drive and executed the all important Ctrl V. The files copied. Victory is mine. I threw my hands into the air in a Rocky gesture. Now, what were those files? I suddenly remembered that they were from one of my jump drives. I said to my spouse, “Grab any jump drives you have and pull them off the network, quick! The Big Drive is showing.” What we discovered after a bit of experimentation was that any jump drive plugged into my desktop showed up as the Big Drive. I do not have my data. The Big Drive is dead. The computer’s memory is variable.

While we were sorting out the drives my photo editing program suddenly launched itself and a photo of my gardens just days before the fire appeared on the screen. It was a a few milliseconds before I remembered why those photos of carefully tended garden seemed a bit off. I know my land in its blackened form. I had forgotten what it looked like pre-black. I was like my computer. I thought I remembered, I had the memory filed as “My Garden” but it was a directory name, not the data itself. I had forgotten about the colors. I saw branches in the photos that surprised me. I thought there was more space between two of the plants. I had a concept of my garden but I had forgotten what my garden looked like. I studied the photos with attention and interest. It was a pleasant thing to do.

I was a normal, boring day. I remember that it was. Like any normal, boring day there were important lessons. Today it was about memory. I was reminded about how variable memories can be. It can be hard to reconcile a memory of a thing with the thing itself.