~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand
I have been writing a column like this for about 6 years so I sometimes forget what I have written about. In reviewing my files I found that I have written about memories and their importance on several occasions, but I have decided to write about them again. Perhaps it is because I spent the weekend at a Penn State football game and I know at least two children and two adults who will remember moments of this weekend their entire lives. Perhaps it is because this is the time of year that always makes me a bit nostalgic. Perhaps it is because in the car on the way back from State College as I was wondering aloud what to write about, Justin said, You should write about making memories. Whatever the reason, this topic is settled in my mind so here you go.
I am fascinated by memory: why we remember what we do, how some things get stuck there while others fade away, how a smell or an object can trigger something long forgotten to come back. It completely fascinates me. Perhaps this is why I love to scrapbook and why the idea of developing Alzheimers is the most terrifying thing I can think of. Memory is elusive and we know so little about it, yet it influences everything from our mood to our purchasing behavior.
If I was to start doing research again I believe I would do it on memories and their role in our lives. I am fascinated by the fact that some people seem to be able to remember almost everything they see and hear, while others cant remember what happened an hour ago. I want to know what makes this work, how our brain chooses what to remember and what to forget, and what triggers memories to come back.
There is no question that memories come in two typesgood and bad. Since both seem to make their way into our brains, I think one of the goals of parenting is to try to get as many good memories into our childrens brains as possible. The reality of life is that it is not always great, and bad memories will settle in whether we want them to or not. But the good memories are the things that inspire us and keep us going when the bad things take over. They are what gives us hope and I believe they are often what gives us strength.
As the quote above states so well, these memories are often not entire events or whole days, but moments from days that we tuck away and sometimes embellish as time goes by. There are moments from this past weekend that I know will live in each of our minds---watching a child see his first college football game; seeing the band come on the field to start another season; 107,000 people all in the same place, all connected to each other for a few moments in time; sitting three rows from the field, so close that you could see the sweat on the players foreheads. I will capture these moments on scrapbook pages, but they will also be in our minds to be called upon whenever we need to feel that warmth and connection. No matter how hard our lives were, I always tried to give my kids as many good memories as possible, hoping these would be what would get them through the bad times I knew would be coming. I can only hope that these memories will be like a soft, warm blanket that they can use to cover themselves when they need them.
At COSI we deal with memories all the time. I cant tell you how many times a month people ask me about the coal mine or the fire truck from the old COSI building. While this can be frustrating at times, I totally get it. These are the stuff of their memories. These are the things that give them that feeling of connection, of safety, and they want to have that experience again and to share it with their children. For some of you, a COSI memory involves sleeping overnight at a COSI Camp-In. This coming year will mark the one millionth camper to spend the night at COSI and we are celebrating it by asking people who had this experience to share their memories. If you were one of those million kids who spent the night at a COSI Camp-In you can share your memory too by logging on to our special Millionth Camper website at http://millioncampers.ning. com/ and see what others remember as well. And if you didnt get the chance to sleep overnight but have a special COSI memory you want to share send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be sure it gets onto a special memory page on our website.
Barbara Kingsolver once said, It's surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time and she was right. I have no way of knowing what little moments from this past weekend each of us will remember. You have no way of knowing what tiny things your child will remember in the future, but there is no doubt that some of these things will find their way in there for a permanent home. I think that we should be conscious of this and try to point out little things that have the potential to be memories. I think we should regularly share our memories with each other, tell stories, and record them in whatever way works for each of us. Ask your child today what they remember about some day or event and listen carefully, for their words are a window to their brain. After all, memories are what bind us together and makes us humanthey are the stuff of both pleasure and pain. Make enough good deposits in your childs memory bank to get them through the rough times and you will have done your job as a parent.