July 6, 2016

Building Memories to Last a Lifetime

A small hand-blown green glass animal, Tabu perfume, and bendy straws: What do these things have in common? They are all a part of who I am, each holding a significance in my life, each item a memento, a precious memory.

I try to expose my children to so many experiences in life - a quiet walk in the woods spotting birds, feeding the ducks in the pond out back, planting a garden, eating at nice restaurants, participating in special mother/son and mother/daughter time, sports, movies and so much more.

I feel that by enriching their minds with new experiences, memories can be shared. Memories can be built. I wonder though, "Will my children remember?" And "What events will they reflect upon with a special fondness?"

My husband often says that I try too hard to build these moments - It's as if I am trying to shape their experiences much like a photographer sets the stage for his still life study. Items are painstakingly arranged, lights perfectly aligned, shadows cast in just the right direction so that the viewer knows exactly what the photographer was going for with the final image. But life doesn't hold still. No matter what I say or do, my children will not always remember things I want, the way I want them to - I suppose this is what makes things so right.

The funny thing about new experiences is that we each remember the things we do by the color of the glasses we wear. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it's painfully true. What I remember differs from what my brother remembers, even if the events are the same. How I see things after hearing the story for the millionth time is different.

While cleaning out my jewelry box the other day, I unwrapped a small bundle of tissue. In it, gently wrapped, was the tiny green glass Bambi mom brought home from Williamsburg for me when I was a kid. To this day I cannot believe that it has gotten through my life unbroken! (Although since the kids were born it HAS been tucked into a small box gently wrapped in the aforementioned tissue!) Bambi sat on my dresser year after year as I turned from a girl into a young woman.

When I moved to my first post-college apartment, Mom lost the fragile animal somewhere en route. (It was found months later located under the seat in mom's car!) At the time, I was devastated. Mom couldn't understand why I had gotten so upset, until I told her WHERE Bambi had come from. She thought it some silly childhood trinket I should have disposed of; instead I suppose every time I glance at it, it's a reminder of happier, more simple childhood joys.

The smell of Tabu perfume stops me dead in my tracks. My grandma Cray had a poodle grooming business. She sprayed all of her "customers" with Tabu. To this day, if I catch a whiff of that perfume it's as if I am suddenly an awkward adolescent playing in her pink poodle grooming room, clipping pretty ribbons from spools. My brother only remembers me locking him into the dog cages or otherwise getting into trouble.

A few nights ago, I pulled out two straws for the kids' smoothies, only instead of being the typical straight straws, I apparently had a few bendy straws in the box. You know, the straws with the accordion goose-neck style bend? Bendy straws are an iconic remembrance of a good friend's mother who recently passed away. As I pulled the two straws from the box I instantly thought of Judy - the way she would hold her soda can, the way she could never open the tops of cans, and the way she would sip her soda with a bendy-straw poking out an an awkward angle but tipped just right as not to drip!

So today, as my children and I played along the banks of Lake Huron, while standing in the shadows of the Blue Water Bridge, across from the home that as a baby I was brought home to, I wonder: "Will my children have fond memories of some silly rock they picked up, a treasure they gently tucked into their little fists and kept from today?"

I don't know what the future holds for my children; however, I know there are apt to be memories I cannot fathom, stories I don't remember and experiences I hope they'll never forget. I can't wait to take this awesome trip with them and watch, every day, as the wonder and amazement of something new crosses their faces, and lives.

"Memory is a child walking along a seashore. 
You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up 
and store away among its treasured things." 
~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

republished from an annarbor.com 2009 post

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