“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” ― author J.M. Barrie
“You have more stories than a book has pages,” a long-time reader teased last week. “Are those all real stories?
“Sure,” I scoffed. “You don’t think I could make up that kind of stuff, do you?”
Focusing this week on things for which I am thankful, the song title made famous by entertainer Bob Hope came to mind: “Thanks for the Memories.” Among the many things for which I am most thankful are memories. Among them are many stories waiting to be told.
The importance of recounting all the stories we “have in storage” didn’t dawn on me until a long time after I was getting paid to write some of them. I probably owe the credit for that awakening to one of my journalism students at Stephen F. Austin State University a generation of writers ago.
After imparting a sufficient degree of writing basics to aspiring journalists, I then challenged them to find and write their first story. “Everybody has a story,” I offered. “They may not know it’s a story, they may think it’s just an old memory. But, if you listen closely, you’ll hear that story that is waiting to be written.”
”That’s easy for you to do,” that one student said. “You have age and experience, and you know a lot of people. It’s not that easy for someone my age.”
“With time comes experience in all things,” I agreed. “But forget age for a minute. Listening and understanding have no age requirements. Ask someone what they remember about growing up. About their interests. About their moments of pride or their regrets of defeat. About their hopes, their dreams. Stir up the memories and listen with an appreciation for what those memories mean to them.”
While I still think that advice was on target back then, the years since have given me an added appreciation for the value of those treasures we call memories and the resulting stories just waiting to be recorded. With that appreciation also came an awareness of the obligation we have to preserve them before they are lost to time.
After a lifetime of writing, I am still amazed at things that come to mind, whether from decades ago or from last week, fueling the fire for a column: a story worth telling.
Granted, a few things that come to mind, mostly from my youth when as they say ” was back before I got good sense,” might best be left to memory and with good cause: possibly ‘cause of that thing known as the statute of limitations. That’s when I smile and remember something else. Just because it was a bad idea then doesn’t mean it isn’t a good memory now. It just depends on whether or not you want to tell it.
However, the much larger volume of things remembered remain as part of the story of our lives that do warrant sharing. And that’s where gratitude for the importance of memories take rise. The snapshots of times past captured on the film in our mind are tidbits of history that need to be recorded for future generations.
In my estimation, that is the most important challenge not just to writers, but to all of us. And it has no limitations of experience or age. Everyone has a story, most of us have many. Let’s make sure we preserve as many as possible before losing them to time.
I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. I also hope you shared some memories with family and friends, sharing some stories that need to be told.