In a recent post, Christmas Cookies – Not Ready for Pinterest , I wrote about my husband and daughter baking together and how it wasn’t about the cookies, but about the memories they were making.
It got me to thinking about what things spark a memory. My father died of Alzheimer’s, and although he couldn’t remember his own name some days, he could remember things of his youth, things that were embedded deep in his subconscious. The doctor would assess him and ask him who the President was, or what day it was, and he never knew those things. It was as if those weren’t the memories that were important to his brain. Those memories didn’t make the cut. It was the memories from long, long ago that made him who he was, and those were the memories that his brain chose to hold on to.
I’m not really a packrat, though my husband would probably tell you otherwise, but I am a bit of a “memory keeper,” a documenter of things past. I think that might be why I write; someone has to be the family historian.
I hold on to old pictures, cards, things my kids have written and made, a lot of “firsts” fill boxes in my garage. Like my father, I think on some level, I believe those are the moments that make up a person’s memory, the reminders of a life well-lived.
Memories can be found in unexpected ways too. While we’ve been baking this Christmas, I’ve noticed that a majority of my recipes we’ve used are from my mom’s and grandma’s collection. And each time I pull a recipe out, I’m swept back to licking the bowl after making my favorite chocolate cookies with my mom, or a vision of my kid’s fingers and faces covered in sugary sprinkles from decorating sugar cookies with their grandma. And all the laughter comes flooding back too.
The best are the odd things that have been kept over the years that demand an explanation that are my favorite, again opening the door to share a story.
If you’re lucky enough to still have a parent or grandparent, ask them about something in their childhood. Chances are they probably remember it. I think it’s maybe a means of survival for us. Our stories, even if they’re exaggerated, are a way of passing on our heritage, of leaving a little bit of ourselves behind for the next generation.
So my apologies to my husband, but I’m not throwing away the “junk” in the boxes. That junk is a memory, full of love and laughter, waiting to be passed down to the next generation.
What sort of tangible things spark your memories? What’s your favorite item that you can’t bring yourself to part with?