When someone asks what your favorite food is … a barrage of tastes, smells, and images floods into the open space of possible answers. You think of your favorite food when you were five. When you first sailed into the world as an adult, your food choices were open to all possibility and your favorite food changed. At many times during the following years, you made new discoveries and something delectable nudged out a prior favorite. When you’re asked about your favorite food, you recall your lifetime of memories and experiences. You’re reminded of places you’ve traveled, people with whom you shared a meal, occasions for celebration, Friday nights on the couch. All of these responses result from one question. Aren’t our brains amazing? I am grateful for mine.
I am grateful for the memories that connect us to those who are no longer living. You are missed. You are remembered.
At the first dance for my seventh grade class, we were all jittering with nerves. As the boys lined up on one side of the cafeteria and the girls lined up on the other, I hoped that my crush would ask me to dance. The boys were pointedly horsing around, appearing to be nonchalant, ignoring the girls. The music played and the dance floor was empty. Then, my crush asked a girl to dance, and another, and another … and me. I could tell that he was terrified. He held his body stiffly and there was no chatter. When he went back to the group of guys, they elbowed him and rubbed the short hair on his head, and teased him loudly. Who did he think he was? He was showing them up. And yet, that afternoon, I understood that bravery comes in many forms and kindness is a quality I admire greatly. I am grateful for people who step away from the pack to do what they believe is right.
It’s National Barbie Day. She was born in 1959. March 9th has been proclaimed her birthday. My grandmother loved to sew Barbie clothes. I think she could be her most creative with the amazing outfits she created for Barbie, so it may be that I received my first Barbie because Grandma could indulge her inner fashionista. I’m aware of all the arguments for Barbie being a detrimental role model. For me, Barbie was never about body image or pinkocity or vapid dreams. My friends and I would play together in our back yards, spinning stories that featured Barbie and Midge and Ken and Skipper. We sewed clothes for them. We designed furniture and houses for them. I have good memories of summer days, spent with friends, stretching ourselves outside of our real lives into the cosmos of imagination. I’m grateful for that.
GrBeing grateful to my mother is a consistent theme in my life. I admire so many of the choices she made about parenting. The earliest gifts I remember receiving were a plastic train set and a Playskool village, both at Christmas (I think I was three). I recently found a photo of that village, which flooded my memory with the stories I used to tell with those movable pieces. In my mind, I was already constructing an involved world (see the second photo), designing houses and roadways, adding amenities to the landscape. I never had that larger village physically, but it was there in my imagination. I was given a doll and a panda bear later, both favorites of mine, but I’m thankful that my mom opened the door for the designer in my personality, giving me tools to tell stories in many ways. (Full disclosure: I photoshopped my head onto that second photo.)
I very clearly remember the sounds of bowling. When I was small, my mom belonged to a weekly bowling league. She would take me along and I would sit at a restaurant table, easily in view of the lanes, watching the game, creating stories about the women who played on her team, and reading once I had learned how. The sounds of bowling are distinct. I remember them faithfully. I heard them over and over again during the bowling season for eight years.
Memory fascinates me. Another one of my goals with this Gratitude Journal is to explore memories. But they cannot be only that this happened and that happened. What is our awareness of the senses involved in our memories?
Neuroscientist Mark D. Humphries writes, “But the brain is constantly surprising us. Things that we think must be true about how neurons work often end up trashed by reality. So it is not a foregone conclusion that the hippocampus must represent all the sights, sounds, and smells of the world. And we know less about the brain than you think. No, less than that. A bit less than that too.” Episodic memory. Echoic memory. Memories of sounds. Fascinating stuff. I am specifically grateful for the memory of sounds (and acutely aware that this is a gift not shared by everyone). [“The Sound of Memory,” Mark D. Humphries, Psychology Today, 16 Sept 2017 }
Stuff. What to do with stuff? Marie Kondo encourages us to consider what sparks joy and remove everything else from our lives. I read books about organization like my life depends on it. Maybe it does. Steve and I are doing our best to live without buying “stuff” so it makes each choice about what to get rid of difficult on many levels. Will we need it again? I have the hardest time with “I remember my grandmother using this slotted thimble when she crocheted” and “here is an unfinished quilt my grandmother started” and “these are the favors I designed for our 2000 family reunion.” The sentimental “stuff.” Our connections to history.
I am grateful for the advice to take a photo of the item in question. Hanging on to that stuff is about the memories. Looking at a photo evokes the same memories, even the smells, textures, and sounds.
A number of years ago, a cousin to whom my mother had lent my childhood rocking chair gave it back to my mom. Her kids were grown. Mom hung on to it. When we packed up her house, I couldn’t bear to part with that chair. I spent many happy hours in it reading books. But it really wanted a young person to sit in it, rocking and reading, so we gave it to a grandma who was happy to share it with her grandson. We took a photo before sending it on its way and it DOES make me happy to look at that photo now and then. Memories don’t have to take up physical space.