Day #316: Remembering Mom

It’s been eight years since this lady passed away. I am grateful for the many years I experienced her good humor, her storytelling, her teaching, her avid following of sports, her caring for everyone, especially people she didn’t know, and her capacity for love. She’s pictured here with a teddy bear Steve made for her, making that face that says, “Oh, how cute.” We miss you, Mom.

Mom with teddy bear Steve made

Day #187: Food Memories

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.

Day #122: Taste and Smell

I have been unable to taste or smell anything for almost two weeks. Nothing. No glimmer. This is a result of a cold … and I hope I regain those senses. For anyone who is without them, you have my profound sympathy. I have been able to observe many aspects about eating for which I haven’t spent enough time being grateful. Instead, texture has become important. I don’t have much appetite. But food memory! My brain is doing its best to provide memories of taste and smell … it’s like standing on the other side of a window watching someone eat. Fascinating.

sense of taste and smell

Day #81: Sound as Memory

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.

bowling ball and pins strike!

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 }

Day #63: Photos and Memories

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.

child's rocking chair

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.

Day #27: Limburger Cheese

Yes, you read that correctly. I truly love Limburger cheese. My husband wishes this were not the käse (inside joke). There is only one cheese factory left in the USA that makes Limburger in the traditional way. Few stores sell it. 

My statement, in a prior essay, about memories? As a six-year-old, I remember sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen at the oak table which now sits in our dining room, eating Limburger cheese with my grandfather. He would spread it on heavy pumpernickel bread, salt it (he salted everything), and then put raw onions on top. That, he proclaimed, was a sandwich. He would offer me some (without the onions), delighted when I ate it and enjoyed it. So of course my fondness for this cheese is inseparable from my love for my grandfather.

For my last birthday, Steve and our good friend, Lisa, treated me to a wish-come-true. We drove to my hometown where there is a cheese store that still sells Limburger cheese. We brought some home, with a fervent promise to my husband to never eat it when he was in the room and to clean up all signs that it had been eaten. Ah, what we do for love!

Day #25: Memories

I am grateful for my memories. I’ve gone through two periods of limited access to memory, once after a difficult and long surgery and the other while grieving my mother. There is a comfort in clarity, remembering details and names and songs and smells and colors. The trivia in which I’ve always reveled? Not as important as memories. In my mother’s last years, she could remember her childhood but she could remember nothing of mine (my childhood was a very stressful time for her). These experiences have given me empathy for the many, many people who no longer have connections to their memories. Their families are bereft. They deserve a lot of help and understanding throughout the year but especially during times when families traditionally gather. Sending my love.

Vicki and mom

Day #8: Hometown

I will always be thankful for my roots in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. I was born there, I lived there until I was seven, and I spent every summer and holiday there until I was 16. It was my home, the place I still visit in my dreams. I breathe more thoroughly there. Growing up in a small town provided me with opportunities I didn’t have as a latch-key kid in the Twin Cities. This is a photo of Rice Lake with its 1926 Christmas decorations (before my time) that captures the spirit of this lovely gem in Wisconsin.

Rice Lake, WIsconsin, Christmas, 1926