What makes a memory take hold and stay with us? Over the years I’ve talked to people who remember what they were doing when JFK was killed. I’m not talking about people who were adults at that time but those who were children such as I. I was a toddler then and no I don’t remember where I was or how my parents reacted to the news. I do remember climbing onto the roof of the basement to sit or to dance during that same year. To clarify how a basement has a roof (no I wasn’t dreaming) that was all that was built of our house in Sandy Township at that time. The roof would have become the floor of an upper level if we hadn’t moved to Falls Creek.
I do remember watching the giant-sized dump trucks and other machinery move dirt and rocks as the Keystone Shortway (Interstate 80) was built near Falls Creek. I cannot tell you where we viewed the work from because I don’t remember climbing a hill but I can clearly remember looking down from a higher vantage point as the road crews worked on the highway.
The ride via car from where the “basement” was situated (behind the Dutch Pantry and closer to the I80 on-ramp going east) always seemed like such a long ride to our current home. Today driving from Dutch Pantry to our house takes less than five minutes.
I guess it’s all in what makes an impact on us either emotionally or mentally that sears the memories in our minds.
Dad and I have been going between the Travel Channel and the History Channel lately, watching shows about archaeologists and new discoveries in Egypt, South America and even in the United States. They are using new technology with satellites to find ancient cities and pyramids that have been buried under sand or swallowed up by forests. Now they can remove the top layers – sand, forest, and dirt – on a screen and show images of structures that are hidden beneath. Of course, there will still be the need to locate the physical sites and excavate them to learn their secrets but now the archeologists have new directions (maps) to follow in locating sites that may reinforce what we currently know or suspect in regards these ancient civilizations – or disprove them.
We have found such programs interesting.
While I enjoy history and learning how others lived do not ask me the dates of when things happened. They happened before my lifetime. But dates are not something I store in my memory. Yes, there are a few dates I remember, some birthdays, the day America declared its independence from Great Britain (July 4, 1776), but don’t ask me when the Romans conquered Egypt, when the Alamo was fought, or even what year man walked on the moon.
Dates, for some reason, do not stick with me very often. Instead it’s the story of the Romans conquering Egypt, of the men who fought and died at the Alamo and the experience of taking that first step onto the moon that piques my interest and has a chance of being remembered.
In my younger years I thought it would be cool to have a photographic memory. Now I’m not sure if that would be a blessing or a curse. Can the mind truly hold so much information without any breakdown? And if one couldn’t pick and choose what they wanted to remember, how would they ever forget a tragic event in their lives to the extent that they could move on in life?
Maybe memories that are here and there throughout a life are better. Or maybe it just means every day wasn’t a memorable day in my life.
As Easter nears, there are memories that pop up from time to time – special dresses, gloves and hats, colored chicks in the window of Matthews Book Store in DuBois, finding a hidden Easter basket that has a white chocolate lamb and a french vanilla egg from Dan Smith’s Candies, Easter dinner with family, and attending a packed church for sunrise service. These memories represent part of my life – my story – but they also represent family and love to me, which may be why they remain and are not long forgotten as so many other moments have been.
Maybe the dates don’t take hold because in all truth time is fleeting and it isn’t time that is important, it’s what we do with the time we have. What will our stories say to someone else some day if we, like those long ago Mayans or Egyptians, were researched to find out what we did in our life and why?
Just a little food for thought . . .