I started thinking about my childhood recently, in a more focused and intentional way than I have previously. I wondered if my memories have had an impact on me or if they’re just a collection of miscellaneous impressions? Have they shaped what I’ve become?
After extensive study of about five minutes, I’ve decided what I’ve retained is a handful of rapid situations. They don’t seem to connect to one another or to my life’s evolution. Since my degree is in psychology, I’ve dipped my toe in the indefinable pool of dreams, the unconscious, the subconscious, and the way these intangibles may put their mark on us.
As a writer, my memories can become fodder for my creations. An incident playing cowboys gets inserted in a story. A friend’s way of tossing her head can identify a character. Perhaps if I pursue memories in an organized fashion, my work will benefit. Others assure me that once I begin plumbing my recollections, I’ll remember more and more. But I mostly want to do it because it’s fun.
Take the thought of an immense wooden packing case. Appliances and large items like furniture used to be delivered in sturdy boxes of timber, not flimsy cardboard or Styrofoam. They also were secured with bendable wire. When one of these items showed up in my yard, it jump-started ideas. It probably was about four by four by four feet in dimension. At the time, maybe fifth grade, I was in love with horses. Not that my family had any, but after submerging myself in every horse book I could lay my hands on (think Black Beauty, the Black Stallion series, Misty of Chincoteague), I would have traded my soul for one. Since we lived in a middle-class suburb with too many little brothers and sisters, my chance of getting a horse to ride was zero.
Luckily my imagination was unfettered. The box became a stage coach; my siblings, passengers; and I was the driver. It seems now as if I spent the entire spring taking imaginary journeys, complete with hold-ups, runaway horses, and broken wheels. My mind galloped to other ideas. Once I threw a ragged discarded bedspread over it, the crate began to double as a cabin,. . .a school with my siblings as reluctant scholars when I lined them up in rows
To this day, if I see a box of similar dimensions, my heart speeds up and I immediately begin plotting what it could be used for. A temporary hiding place from thieves, a corral for pets or small children. This memory makes me happy, even if I don’t use it for anything productive. Research has shown that reminiscing has the capacity to reduce loneliness, boredom, stress and depression. It can also help considerably in dealing with traumatic experiences,
If you wonder about the value of wasting time remembering, just ask someone with a friend or loved one who’s lost his reminisces through Alzheimer’s or dementia. Only a hollow shell of HIM remains. He’s able to eat, mumble, sleep; but his essence has vanished. So I’ll keep pulling out these miscellaneous snippets of memory to help me make sense of my past, present, future. They’re the building blocks of my spirit.