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.

What’s with the guy who sneaks into the house and steals small, worthless items? Doesn’t he have anything better to do?

thiefYesterday I couldn’t find the three bratwurst I’d stored in the freezer for a quick weekday dinner. I took every single bag of veggies, chicken breast, ice cube tray, and ice cream container out and rummaged thoroughly. No brats. The mysterious petty thief must have returned.  We began getting visits from this specter when my son in elementary school galumphed through the house demanding, “Where’s my ruler?” and “I can’t find my quarter. Who took it?” I’d tell him a very clever thief who specialized in sneaking into our house entered during the wee hours of the morning to take his belongings. Inevitably one us would find the missing item, and we realized the thief had re-entered to return my son’s things.

Since that time, the sneaky thief has become a regular visitor. Who else could be to blame for the dozen of pairs of my reading glasses that have gone missing? He must have one pierced earlobe, for half of a set of earrings disappears periodically. He even follows me to restaurants and snatches my scarf at least once a season. Then his coup de grace: at my mother’s apartment, my sister, brother, mother and myself fell victim to his craving for keys, for all of our sets had vanished.

I refuse to believe we’re misplacing items or are careless, although my husband uses each incident to deliver a mini-lecture on the importance of consistency. “Always put the article in the same place when you’re done with it. Then you’ll never lose it.” One study claims the average person misplaces up to nine items a day, and one-third of respondents in a poll said they spend an average of 15 minutes each day searching for items.

My husband doesn’t understand our family’s at the mercy of an unscrupulous offender. We’re lucky the villain hasn’t turned his sights on more valuable belongings, say dollar bills or cell phones.  He did enough damage with the bratwurst. I comfort myself that he probably was hungrier than anyone in the house. Needed the food more. Wasn’t just trying to drive me crazy.