The Power of Memories

Twice a year my family would pack up for a week and drive nine hours from St. Louis to the Cleveland to visit my mom’s parents. We felt very close to them despite our infrequent visits. Visiting their home was a very special part of our childhood, as my parents relaxed for a week and my siblings and I played all the old board games with each other and with our “Ohio cousins”.

As I go back there as an adult, I bring my husband and my own children, and sleep in the same bedroom, watch my children play with the same toys, and talk to Grandma in the same kitchen. Being able to visit the home my mother grew up in year after year means so much to me since it gives me a taste of my mother’s childhood and now my own.

Now I live nine hours from my parents house and we visit about twice a year. My children are old enough to remember the house, the toys, and the visits here. It is so special for them, to pack up and arrive at the home of their loving grandparents and often an aunt or uncle. The house has not changed much since I left for college, and my children experience it as the same every time we come. They create memories with each other, with us, and with their grandparents, aunts, and uncle.

For me, it is a bit surreal only “going home” twice a year. I have memories of growing up in every part of every room, that come back to me every visit.. We moved in when I was one year old (about the age of my youngest) and my dad spent several years building a bedroom in the basement. That became “the girls’ room”, and since it is so large it now accommodates us when we visit. When I go in the room now, and see my daughter sleeping in my old part of the room, and remember being a little girl here, it brings a sense of unity to my life.

Moving far away from home to a different state in my own house is so strange for me sometimes, and coming home brings my life together. It all makes sense. I remember the blessed childhood I had, in a beautiful, loving family.  When I am at home, I am with myself as a baby, a child, and a teenager. I remember myself when I am there.

God’s relationship with us is outside of time. He knows our whole life. But we live in time, and relate to him as temporal beings. Our memories help us to understand our lives as a unity.  Everything we have experienced is a part of us, who we are now, and who we will be at the end of our lives. Coming home helps me to understand myself as I was before I moved away. I see more of the progression of my life. Maybe it is not ideal to live hundreds of miles away from where I grew up, but I am blessed that I am able to visit my childhood home and to see the unity in my life.

When we returned this past autumn to Buffalo, NY where M and I spent the first four years of our marriage and where our first two children were born, I once again experienced the power of my memories. I had been trying to make sense of my longing for the place and people we had left behind, and returning helped me find closure in our moving away. My memories there are part of my life and who I am.

On our long car trips, we have been listening to the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be living so close to family as the Ingalls did in Wisconsin and then pick up and move to Oklahoma, knowing that they would probably never see their family again. I imagine that writing the story of her life, even if it is slightly fictionalized was an attempt at finding unity in a life so interrupted by moving. Her life was held together by her memories

The Holy Family spent a number of years traveling, before they settled down back in Nazareth, so I often think of Our Lady in a strange land with the only continuity of life being that of her family. We are told that after the shepherds visit to the Infant Jesus she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Our memories are something to ponder in our hearts, especially the ones that reveal God’s love to us. Remembering our past, and pondering it in our hearts is a way to understand and know ourselves as God knows us. Memories are part of who we are.

Originally at Truth and Charity