Memories are fascinating things; some we cherish, and some, we’d just as soon forget. I’ve noticed that with the passing of time I seem to have a natural inclination to recall the memories that rekindle joy and try to avoid or forget the ones that bring sorrow or regret.
For instance, when reflecting on the precious hours spent visiting my Grandpa and Grandma Clayton as a child, I remember the enjoyable times like sitting on the porch swing with my grandparents counting the boxcars as they passed by on the DT&I train tracks south of Maplewood. After the train had passed, we would compare the numbers we counted to see if they matched up; sometimes they did, sometimes they did not; and what was a temporary distraction to the old folks was a priority to the little boy who sat between them cooking up an endless assortment of questions ranging from “where is that train going” to “when are we going down to the river to go fishing” — and so it was in paradise in the mid-1960s.
In contrast, I remember little about the challenges my grandparents surely must have faced at the time like everyone else, challenges I would learn more about with the passing of time. It was not until many years after they had passed on that I realized just how little they survived on in day to day living; the Great Depression had taught them well. I eventually figured out there was a reason Grandma put eggs and bread crumbs in the hamburgers and hand-stitched quilts created from patches of clothing that had seen their better day; those quilts were not made for a contest at the county fair, they adorned the beds and were made to snuggle under on cold winter nights. Likewise, Granddad never threw anything away that might be handy for making repairs or fabricating a thingamajig to fix his whatchamacallit instead of buying a new one. And, with all of life’s imperfections and shortcomings, they seemed relatively happy and were for the most part content, or at least it seemed that way as I don’t recall them complaining much but do remember their prayers of sincere appreciation thanking God for what they did have.
The apple didn’t fall very far from the tree concerning the similarities between my grandparents and my father, Kenny. Like his parents, in his senior years, Dad seldom, if ever, complained — about anything. He seemed perfectly content with the basics in life, especially good health. And his sentiments were reinforced by his countenance, by the signature grin on his face, and the kind words of hope and encouragement he shared in conversation. This would be a good place to note the sowing and reaping effect on creating memories. The kind of memories we possess rests primarily in how we invest our time and the choices we make. The memories I have of Dad are good ones because he chose to make it that way. I hope that if or when I reach a “ripe old age,” I too will not fall far from that family tree.
Calling on old memories can be a fun place to visit now and then, but we wouldn’t want to live there. The more time we spend reflecting on the past, the less time we have for living life to its fullest and the opportunities to make new memories; memories that can be relived in our hearts and minds, shared, and passed on to future generations. While some memories require a substantial investment of time to make, others do not, and often, the time required to make them has little relevance to their importance or worth.
Memories speak volumes but do not require shelves or boxes for storage. Some are recalled on a regular basis, others lie resting in the far corners of our minds waiting to be summoned on special occasions. Yet all can be revisited in the blink of an eye. Hence the need to focus on the making rather than the review; there will always be time for that.
The writer, who resides in Sidney, is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.