Have you ever found yourself in a moment where you knew right then and there that it would become a treasured memory? What is it that makes some things memorable and others not? Better yet, why is it that the fondest memories often seem to come from otherwise mundane moments, while moments that we think should be memorable are often treasured less later on?
I’m guilty as much as anyone of trying to “make memories” in certain situations, but it shouldn’t be surprising that those moments are often not the ones I end up remembering, much less treasuring. The beauty of it all is that we can somehow “make memories” without even thinking about it, simply by paying attention.
But what does it take to remember something? What makes certain memories more powerful than others? And how do memories affect the present?
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I’ve owned my truck now for around 11 years. I bought it with my own money before I was even old enough to drive it. The plan was for it to be a project truck. Even today, when I get inside, the first thing I notice is a certain smell. It’s a smell that the truck has always had, even after all that it’s been through. When I smell that familiar scent, it takes me back to the days before I was old enough to drive, and when I would go outside and just sit in the truck for a while, listening to the fuzzy radio and dreaming. The smell is a pneumonic device of sorts, only it’s more powerful that a mere memory aid, such as a song or a rhyme.
The funny thing about it is that I was never in the mindset of rememberance back when I first got the truck. If anything, I was in the mindset of anticipation, and of longing. I wasn’t focused on remembering that moment so that I would be able to look back on it fondly 11 years later. I was simply focused on treasuring that moment.
Thomas Fuller, a writer and historian from the 1600s, is quoted as saying this:
“Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved.”
Stop me if I’m wrong, but I think that the idea of treasuring something has a lot to do with memory. Perhaps that’s why I can remember the last blue-jay I saw, but I can’t remember the name of the last person I met. To treasure something is to hold on to it, to store it away in a secret place. Something that is treasured becomes treasure, and if that thing is a memory, that memory will become treasure.
But what is memory for? How does it affect or impact the present? Certainly memory trains us. It aids us in growing stronger and more aware. But how do we remember the present?
In my last book, Seasonal Kinship, I included a quote from Cicero at the beginning.
“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”
I included that quote because I felt that it got to the heart of what that story was about. It’s a story about remembering the past, sometimes to a fault. For some of the characters, those memories become substitutes for the present, particularly in terms of familial relationships. Even the process of writing that story was a practice in remembering. In some ways, that story is a reflection of my own childhood, and writing it brought back all the pangs of remembering a lost time.
To remember something that is no more is to preserve a portion of it, and the feeling that comes from such remembrance is one of deep unfulfillment. I wrote about this in Seasonal Kinship—of how memory acknowledges the voids within us and beckons for fulfillment.
If that story was about remembering the past, my new book, Snow In The Shadows, is about remembering the present. The main character, a young boy waiting out the final days before Christmas, is in a place of anticipation. He’s looking for Christmas morning and all that he hopes will come with it, but he’s also looking forward at what his relationships with members of his family will look like in the time to come.
In many ways, it’s a story about paying attention. You could even say it’s a response to the old statement: “I would’ve paid more attention if I had known…”
Memory fascinates me, and these two stories are just two small ways I’ve been able to communicate my thoughts about cherishing memories. If you’re a reader, I hope you’ll consider giving them a chance, but along with that, I hope that the next time you encounter one of those moments like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you will give up trying to make a memory and instead choose to treasure one.
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(If you’re interested in finding out more about my books, you can do so here.)