I have a terrible memory. I can memorize song lyrics, country flags, stuff like that. But my actual life, as anyone who knows me can tell you, is pretty vague in my mind. I was talking to a couple of my parents recently about places we had gone as a family and they kept listing places and I would just shake my head, “No, I don’t remember that one either.”
I felt awful at the time. It must be a little bit crushing to have gone to the effort of ‘making memories’ for your children and then learn that, in fact, no memories were made. But I think I’m putting together an alternative perspective that might make you, parents, feel better. Of course, I’m in no position to offer parenting advice but since when did having no authority stop people from giving their opinions?
I think most of the meat of life is actually pretty forgettable. It’s like on the spot describing for someone what you did at 6 pm last Tuesday (maybe you’re great at remembering that sort of stuff, good for you). Oddly, though, I’m starting to think that being able to forget the little stuff is a kind of blessing.
I don’t remember a lot of the things we did as a family when I was young but there’s no doubt in my mind that we did them. I couldn’t give you details but I know that my family did things together. I know my family is my family. And I think that’s probably more important than the details (however expensive or trying those details were). Some people aren’t sure of their families, regardless of things done or not done together.
It’s easy to get lost in searching for the Major Thing that will Make Memories. Nothing wrong with those things, of course, but they will not make up the great proportion of the substance of our lives. It takes a great deal of understanding to acknowledge that the small, mundane, forgettable moments are what we are actually made of.
It takes humility and courage to seek those moments, to be ready to participate in them, knowing that they will never really be a Big Deal.
I’m also going to take this opportunity to thank people–mostly but not exclusively my parents– for the moments they’ve had in my life, whether I remember them or not. They’re the foundation of our relationships and I’m very grateful for them. Those all-too-often forgotten (by me, at least) and exceedingly ordinary acts of service and presence matter. They matter so very much.
It probably won’t take long for these periods at home since graduation to fade into generalized recollections that aren’t quite memories (that’s how I do) but even so, they matter. So thank you also, family, for letting me come home. Twice. For just a lot longer than any of us expected. You let me just kind of do my thing but also made sure that I was still involved in family life. It matters.
I’m trying to be ready for boring moments, now that I’ve thought of them this way. By their very nature, it will be difficult. But I think that if we all put a little more meaningful presence into the ordinary, we just might be able to build the extraordinary without realizing it.