I turned 38 years old today. Every year on this day, I look back on life. With each passing year, certain memories begin to fade, and even those major events in life that feel as if they just happened begin to slowly fade. It’s good to know how life is pieced together. This year in particular, I’ve been trying to put together a timeline of my life; marking larger significant events, then filling in the gaps with the smaller, yet still impactful events. Understanding where we’ve been, helps us understand where we are.
“Life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
Some memories in our lives only exist because of photos. I can tell you that me and my brother ran around in cowboy boots and underwear when we were little because my mom has that photo. My dad used to play softball with guys from our church, and apparently I would be there with him, like one of the guys. I can tell you we had a dog named Feo, he resembled a border collie if I recall. I can tell you that I used to take naps with my grandpa in a recliner, and that our Christmas trees used to be covered in tinsel; but without the photos, would I be able to have those memories?
I remember my mom and dad going to the hospital when my brother was born, my grandpa came and stayed with me; but I couldn’t tell you much else about that time over the next couple of years, aside from the photos and the stories.
Another part of our memory is built from the stories of our family and friends. My mom has a great memory, and she is the main reason I know about all of the amazing people who were in my life as a child. Because of my mom, I can name people who used to play with me at church, the families that would come over and play cards at our house, the important people in our life who were the origins of my first and middle name. The stories can breathe life into the photographs, and they can help form the structure of our timelines.
One example of the power of story on memory, is one that my mom would tell me over and over again at church when I was a kid. There was this guy named Glen at our church where I grew up. He was a big guy, and my mom would always tell me when we saw him, “He used to pick you up and throw you in the air when you were little”; you know, one of those embarrassing things parents do to us when as we grow up. The funny thing is that I couldn’t remember that; but somehow, I could almost begin to see it after a while. Eventually, Glen was that guy who used to throw me up in the air at church.
This story became a memory because I trusted my mom, so her stories were truth.
An impactful experience stays with us. When I was about 10 years old, my family took a road trip up the West coast to visit some family in Washington. I remember only a few parts of that trip, but the strong positivity I feel in these memories have helped them endure. I remember stopping at a general store somewhere in either Oregon or Northern California. There was a giant statue of Paul Bunyan and his ox out front, and my brother and I got cork guns. I can picture my little cousin and his curly hair, I remember having a lot if fun with my cousins, but I can’t recall anything we did. I remember romping through the forest in my uncles 4×4 to an amazing fishing spot. The forest was dense and beautiful, and we caught rainbow trout that day. I remember seeing Pearl Jam’s music video for Jeremy on their t.v. and being in awe. It was actually the moment that I decided I wanted to play guitar.
These memories are few, and they are from one small trip in my life, but they are powerful. I still play guitar today, I love being out in the forest, and I still get taken back to Paul Bunyan every time I see some of those old wooden toys at a gas station. It’s the simple experiences like these that encourage me as a parent and spouse to travel with my family.
The never ending story.
The surface of life is barely scraped as I begin to dig through memories. The story continues to develop, as pieces of the puzzle are connected. Our lives are a story being written every day, and it’s in those pages that we find our purpose and insight into who we are.