If someone asked you to share one of your memories, what would you choose to tell them?
Now imagine the same person asked you to share five or ten or fifty, how many of them would be ‘good’ memories?
If you were given a day or two to conjure up as many memories as you possibly could, how long would it take before you mentioned a ‘bad’ memory?
It fascinates me to consider what my answers to these questions would be. It feels like some sort of subtle test, a way to measure my satisfaction with my life.
I had an occasion recently to investigate this idea up close and personal. As my mom’s power of attorney, it was up to me to sign all the mortgage closing documents on her recent house sale.
I’d promised myself that I would walk through the house before the closing. I wanted a chance to capture the living memories I felt were stored there. I wanted to sweep them up and bring them with me. To store them somewhere safe inside me so that I could hold them, perhaps forever.
As I walked in the front door, the floodgates opened. I can’t recall the very first time I entered the home I grew up in and I that I have been a part of for over sixty years, but so many things stood there in front of me.
The house has so many interesting features and every inch of space is utilized. There is a shelf inset into the wall in the foyer. One of the shelves used to hold a small wooden ship I carved for my father. It had toothpick masts and thread rigging and it took me a long time to build. It’s not there anymore. I have no idea where it went.
I walked into the living room. A place where so many joyous family gatherings were held. A place where a mounted deer head rested above the fireplace. I’d bought it at a garage sale for 25 cents. I thought it was a great deal. I’m willing to bet the seller and his wife thought they’d made a profit. The deer head is gone now. I have no idea where it went.
On into the dining room, where all our family dinners happened. My mom was an excellent cook and I remembered many of the meals we ate there. If I stretched a bit, I could almost taste them. It became my mom’s reluctant bedroom, when it wasn’t safe for her to go up and down the stairs any longer.
Going from room to room brought more and more sweet memories. Words, sounds, feelings. The comings and goings of six decades. All the games, conversations, fears, hopes, and dreams. All the wonderful cookies after school, fresh out of my mom’s oven. The mad crazy ping pong games with my father in the basement, which was too short for our smashing forehands. All the imaginative games with my sister, one of which was pretending to be radio disc jockeys under the dining room table. Don’t ask me why that was our station headquarters. It just was.
Upstairs I walked down the hall to my bedroom. I could still see it as it was when I was a child, the placement of my desk and chair and bed, the Hopi Indian wall hanging, even the closet that had a sort of secret compartment where I stored my prized possessions.
My memory lane is long. The savoring, both touching and sweet.
Perhaps you’ve lived and lost some parts of you, a house, a family member, friend, favored pet or a lessening of your skills and senses. It happens.
What I think matters most to me is what I do with my memories.
Do I let the ‘bad’ ones overtake me, bringing me down and crushing me into silence and grief?
Or do I sift through them until all that are left are the golden, glowing, shiny memories. The ones I wish to keep and hold near to me.
The beautiful thing is, we each get to choose.