Recently I ran across one of my old high school yearbooks (the key word here being old). I flipped through the pages, recalling faces and names I’d forgotten long ago. As I read the various greetings penned inside the covers, I ran across a note from Richard: “Remember the straws!”
I remember Richard. Funny guy. Curly hair, glasses, a few freckles. But I don’t remember the straws.
When he wrote that, it must have been an inside joke that both of us assumed we’d keep forever. But I don’t. That’s the way it always goes. Some images and events are seared into my brain, but others aren’t. If I don’t write those down, they’re gone forever.
It’s the same with my kids. When my first baby was just learning to sit up, John and I used pillows to prop her up between us in bed. One night she did something so cute and endearing that I said to John, “This is the kind of thing we’ll talk about years from now.” Only we don’t, because I can’t remember what she did. I remember the pillow props and laughing and even the words I said to my husband, but I cannot coax from my memory the exact cute little thing my baby daughter did that delighted us.
Yes, there are events I can’t forget, both joyful and catastrophic. But even the details of those grow fuzzy as time elapses. Going back to read the journal entries I penned when those occasions were fresh, I am reminded of facts, quotes and features that had totally slipped from my mind.
Experience has taught me that if I want to keep something, I have to record it in words or pictures. This contributes to my immediate benefit, because in my sixth decade it is satisfying to go back and revisit significant events from my life story. But documenting moments also serves my children.
Stories and pictures are tangible links to our family history. They give successive generations roots that ground them in a shared heritage. Every time I sit with any of my fourteen grandchildren, without exception, they beg me to recount tales of both my childhood and their parents’. Stories matter. Remembering matters. It reminds us of who we are and how we got here, of where we’ve been and what we’ve done. Leaving behind our stories and pictures gives testimony that we were here, that we learned and laughed and lived, and that our lives had value.
Have you ever lost an important memory? Were you able to recover it with help from others who experienced it with you? I’d like to hear how that has impacted your resolve to record future events. In the Comments section, share with us some creative ways you have discovered to keep memories fresh for the next generation.
There is joy in the telling for both the tellers and the hearers, so let’s spread some of that joy around.