Being fifty-something, I’ve got half a lifetime’s worth of memories to manage.
Photographs, mementos, cards, keepsakes, touchstones … however you categorise them, I possess as many of them as the next fifty-something.
When I wrote about the memories sparked by this photo a couple of weeks back, I was amazed at the number of family and friends who mentioned it to me, sharing their own remembrances of the time when the photo was taken, or how it related to another time in their own life. That brought home to me (again) how memories stimulate thought, reflection and dialogue and how important (and rewarding) it is to keep them alive.
For me, that means not hiding them away in dusty albums or rarely opened keepsakes boxes.
I prefer to be ambushed by my memories, just as I was when the above photo literally fell out of a box and into my awareness.
That happens a lot around here. And I like it.
Maybe I’m just too lazy to sort and catalogue my memories into albums and beautifully crafted scrapbooks. OK … that’s not even a maybe.
But this is what’s been working for me. I have my memory starters secreted in places I access regularly. They’re like little booby-traps, that sneak up on me.
My Girl and Wonder Boy’s first birthday cards mingle with the DVDs in the drawer beneath the TV.
There are past family feast photos (laying in wait to eat into my emotions) in the bulging folder of take-away menus taped to the inside of the pantry door.
There’s a photo of Mum and Dad rubbing shoulders with the flatware in their “good cutlery” canteen that I somehow inherited.
Most of our own wedding photos are in one of those dusty albums in the top cupboard that requires a visit to the shed to retrieve a step ladder before I can delve in. But there’s one (a big one) that floats around the shed, being bumped from one spot to another, making way for DIY projects, tools, storage boxes. It’s even managed to ambush a couple of neighbours borrowing tools.
Hidden inside the antique games table, along with kings, queens, pawns and decks of playing cards, is the guest book from my late sister Gay’s funeral.
And lurking in my underwear drawer is one of Gay’s hankies. Every couple of weeks it rises to the surface as I rummage through my knickers, reminding me how Gay always carried a hankie. It’s a giggle every time.
On a much-used bookshelf, sandwiched between a modern classic and Yates Garden Guide, is an unassuming, black-bound bible with a special inscription from my grandparents to my dad on his eleventh birthday. (Wonder what was in his head when he was eleven?)
And in the basket where I keep my wrapping paper and gift cards is a special blue envelope with memories of James, our stillborn nephew.
So, when I’m doing mundane, ordinary things, these items leap out and into my head and my heart. They activate thoughts, reflection and dialogue and stay alive as part of my everyday life.
I still get surprised when I rifle through the “present-wrapping” basket or open the lid on the games table and unexpectedly find myself transported to another time and place.
I’d love to say I’d set this all up as a master plan – a strategically integrated memory map for my home. Truth is, it’s happened organically over many years. I just love how spontaneous memories make me feel, so I’ve left it that way.
And I love that that’s how recollections are in my head … they’re not chronologically ordered or categorised by event. They cascade out at will, when I least expect them, finding impromptu connection though a smell or a taste, a word or a song … or just a feeling.
They’re there always. Ready to ambush me. Bring it on.