I love that Son #1, age 11 and a half, is a human encyclopedia. I wouldn't say that he has a photographic memory, like Akira Haraguchi who managed to recite pi's first 83,431 decimal places from memory (yes, that's eighty-three thousand decimal places). It took him 16 hours according to wikipedia.com. But I digress....
Back to Son #1. He definitely has the ability to retain and recall a huge amount of information. Planning our upcoming family vacation got me thinking about it. I half-joking asked each of my sons, "where do you think we should go on our family vacation?" We had already been decided, but I was curious to see if it would end up on any one of the boys' lists. (It didn't. But I think that's because I'm always complaining how expensive it is.)
I don't recall what the younger two suggested. Son #1, however, wanted to visit Cyprus. Excuse me? "You know, the Mediterrean island nation." Okay, I've heard of it. He goes on, with this tone that says DUH!: "One of the seats of early civilization? Part Greek, part Turkish?" Oh, that Cyprus. Of course. Uh no.
He can recall the most minute details, arcane facts especially about animals, geography, and past civilizations (both factual and fictional). Son #1 is a Boy Scout. There are many wonderful qualities about scouts, but often it seems, "cool" isn't exactly one of them. Yes, I know there are exceptions. This isn't about one of them. One of the adult leaders in Son #1's troop is a Tolkein buff (Lord of the Rings, etc.). He and Son #1 had a little debate one day. They were trying to stump each other with Tolkein trivia. Little did Mr. E know that in addition to reading The Hobbitt, The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, and the unfinished prequel, The Silmarillion, Son #1 also this Encyclopedia of Tolkein characters and can recite their genealogy. Needless to say, Son #1 won the debate. And if he were reading this, he'd point out to me that The Silmarillion was actually completed by JRR Tolkein's son and published after his father's death.
He's a stickler for details. He does drive his teachers nuts a bit, because heaven forbid they get one teensy, unimportant fact wrong, Son #1 will point it out. We're working on his diplomatic skills. His science teacher doesn't seem to mind. She told me she turned the class over to him to teach once because he seemed to know more about certain rock formations that she did. While he was speaking, she was fact-checking the info and sure enough, the little bugger was right.
Which is another issue. He thinks he's always right. It would be really annoying if it weren't true. When he was nine, he wrote a letter to the publisher of a dinosaur book because one of the tables had the name of a particular era (paleozoic, perhaps) listed with the wrong years. The horror! They didn't even bother to respond. He briefly considered returning the book to the store because "it was inaccurate" but ultimately decided to correct the error with his own pen and keep the book because "the pictures were cool."
As I said before, I don't think he has a photographic memory (how does one tell anyway?), but his brain must be hyper-organized that he can recall things so quickly and completely. He can remember the teensiest details about books we've read together six years ago. I don't know where he gets it from. Certainly not from me. I can't remember what I had for breakfast.