Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Memory Tree

My brother-in-law and his wife have bought a lovely house in Hancock Park, an area of Los Angeles full of wide, tree-lined streets that I'm sure doubles for Ossining, NY in Mad Men. It has a fifties feel about it. The houses are gorgeous and huge, with centre floor plans, big sweeping staircases, large gardens and very often mature trees. Children play in the street or walk to nearby Larchmont Village for ice cream.

Their house is faux English, a popular style in Hancock Park, with lots of old red brick and pretty windows. The rooms are big but cozy and the kitchen spills out onto the garden. In the middle of the garden is an old tree with beautifully shaped leaves. I stared at the tree for a few minutes, unable to recall its name. "What a lovely tree" I said to my brother-in-law. "Oh yes, the Chinese elm," he replied. "Yah, but it has another name, I'm sure," I said, "You know..."

Someone once told me that you shouldn't panic when you forget the names of things and that it's good for the brain to be allowed to noodle on these things. I was completely distracted and spent the whole evening obsessing about the name of the damn tree. Finally it came to me, just as we were finishing dinner. "Ginkgo Biloba" I blurted out, triumphantly. "Yes," said my brother-in-law. "People take it for memory loss."