“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” ~Kevin Arnold, The Wonder Years
I am a memory keeper. Memories embody everything that is special and sacred to me. I am a complex package tied up with memories—all kinds of memories. These memories are the ribbons running through my mind revealing the person I have become.
My oldest memory is of being at the funeral home when my grandmother died. I was just shy of 2 years old. The room where her casket rested was cavernous and icy cold. The carpet was peppered with cabbage roses and it was eerily quiet. I can still picture Wilma Grace Pollock lying there void of life. She didn’t reach up and pinch my cheeks, and she didn’t wink at me with her mischievous eyes. Tucked in her hands was a bouquet of four tiny roses—one for each granddaughter. I towered above her; perched on my daddy’s arm. This memory reminds me of sweet, unconditional love (I Corinthians 13:4-8; I Peter 1:22).
When I was 4 years old, I climbed on my grandmother’s chest freezer for an unknown reason. The mystery unraveled as my mother and aunt tried to figure out how I had managed such a feat. There was nothing close enough to the freezer for me to climb on; so I apparently scaled the slippery freezer under my own power. I do not remember getting there, but I remember being there. Sitting gloriously high on my mountain, I heard my aunt cry out, “Karen Beth! What in the world are you doing up there?” This memory reminds me of uninhibited, valiant courage (Psalm 31:24).
I learned to roller-skate at a 1950’s roller rink with a wavy, wooden floor. The rails were treacherously loose and offered little in the way of security. I skated rapidly around and around the little rink. The curves were my favorite! Eventually, I managed to skate backwards and could be the head or tail of the whip.
This past week, I took my students on a field trip. I knew that the destination offered roller-skating as an activity, but I never planned on indulging. My students started asking me to skate with them and the memories flooded back. Fun-loving freedom stood out the most in my mind. As I watched from the sidelines, one child after another glided past me—making new memories of their own. Their young, limber moves made it look like a piece of cake. I was somewhat jealous. I silently wondered, “Could I relive the memory?” “Is it possible to time travel back to 1987 and pick up where I left off?” Finally, my curiosity won out and I snuck over to the skate counter. I laced up my roller skates and cautiously made my way to the entrance of the rink. My legs felt like jell-o and the strobe lights made me dizzy. Almost instantly, I realized that my skating skills had gotten just a tad bit rusty. My students were guardian angels—they wanted to hold my hand, teach me to use the brakes, and rescue me when I…fell!
Needless to say, roller-skating did not come back to me like I believed it might. I never let go of the rail, I couldn’t remember how to move my feet, and crawling to the wall to gain my composure was just a little embarrassing. However, a few things remained the same. It was flat out fun!! It was challenging in a good way. It made me thankful and glad that God has given me such a devoted memory. My 3rd grade students taught me a great lesson that day. It actually is possible to bring a memory back to the surface and experience some of the same familiar feelings. And that is the beautiful thing about memories—pleasant or unpleasant, we deal with them each and every day. They become what we fondly refer to as our story.