I was listening to Daughtry’s September recently and it made me flash back to my childhood summertime memories. As I pictured my brother and I pretending to be under enemy attack, hiding underneath the bushes and digging pits that were carefully covered with twigs and leaves in which we might snare spies, something odd occurred to me. I was really only remembering a handful of moments spread out over one, maybe two, summers. That’s when I realized what a small window of our childhood we actually take with us through our lives that defines our childhood.
What makes a moment turn into a memory? What makes that one memory become a defining memory, a memory that creates the ‘feeling’ of our childhood. ‘Summer’ to me is defined by that memory. When I actually recall all my summers though, there are so many varied activities, adventures and feelings that happened throughout. What made that memory become my defining memory? It wasn’t a huge moment where lives were altered, and it wasn’t repeated for years and years until it was blazoned into my mind. It was a happy, content, safe, cherished moment.
We can’t pick those moments, they pick us. We don’t even know they’re happening until years later as we look back across time and distance. That’s when they stand out, they define us.
When I realized this I began to think of other things, like Christmas, traveling, Fall, my home town, pets, school, … The first thing that came to mind for each subject wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise is that for each one my defining memory was actually this small snapshot in time. It was never a huge event, or milestone. It was this small, perfect, average memory, and it would forever become the definition of that ‘thing’ which it stood for.
I also noticed that they all happened very close together. Within the course of three years my defining memories had all been created. Click, they there were, set forever in my mind. Now, idealistically speaking, summer means this one thing to me, Christmas means this one feeling to me, traveling means this one place to me, and so on. Yet I didn’t even know at the moment that those memories, those times, would be the ones to forever define me.
Now I look at my children and I wonder, what will their defining moments be? I can’t create them, only they can. I can’t pick when they’ll happen or what will spark that click to occur. They won’t even know when they’re happening themselves. I want their moments to be beautiful, peaceful, full of love and joy. Maybe that’s what defining moments are by nature, perfect little moments of love that is complete. Maybe that’s why there’s inherently nothing manufactured about them, they cannot be generated by force.
All of the sudden I feel so small and not in control. Even inside my own head I have no control of the influences of life. Maybe that’s a really good thing. Maybe the moments I’d pick would have been entirely wrong, because I sure know the ones that exist feel entirely right.
Oh, another cool thing, everyone makes their own defining memories, so even though mine happened when they did, my brother's are different than mine. This is why some of the most significant defining memories from my youth are ones that my mother can’t even recall.
I want to watch extra carefully now. I want to remember my kids defining moments when they tell me about them in 30 years. I won’t know which ones they’ll be until then, but when they recall I want to be able to say ‘Wow, I remember that too’ and then feel the awe of how their minds picked those moments to define them. This requires attentiveness, a cataloguing of endless moments happening right in my own backyard. Noticing the little things over the big things. We like to give attention to the big things, but it’s the little details that we carry with us forever. Life is there, in those little, unnoticed moments which live forever.
Ahh, the little moments. How easily we forget how much they’re worth.
Thank you for indulging me in a philosophical trip down memory lane.