My travels often take me down “Memory Lane,” where I reminisce about the paradise of youth. They’re strange, memories are. They seem to come to me when I do not call for them and pay no heed when I attempt to conjure them in conversation. They’re always there, though, just under the surface. It takes the right atmosphere to bring them out. A walk in nature can always produce them, especially if I tell them to stay away. The stubborn will of memories is like that.
I get talking to myself as I walk, and my mind wanders quickly into the past. Or perhaps I bring the past into the present. I’ll see a beautiful tree and say, “Oh, yes, that’s just like the one outside my kitchen window when I was seven years old! I remember it well.” I’ll see a meandering river and I’ll say, “Ah, yes, I remember that time we had the 4th of July picnic and I fell into the river by accident. I was soaked!” I’ll gaze into a field at an old house and say, “Oh, it’s just like the old home I was born in!”
|As beautiful as I remembered . . .|
It doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to the present, to what’s here and now. It just means that the things in the present that are worth paying attention to are the things that make memories. Television shows, the latest gadget, gossip at the water cooler, etc., these things do not make memories. They just steal time from us in which we might have created memories. But if we will just throw it away . . .
Ten years from now I’ll think of the tree on my walk today that made me think of the tree of my youth. I’ll think of the meandering river on my walk today that made me think of the river at the picnic in my childhood. I’ll think of the old house in the field today that made me think of the old house where I was born. That’s how it works. They make secret connections in our minds, like a string of pearls except that this necklace is draped along the shoulders of time instead of my own shoulders. Each pearl added makes it that much more precious, and all connect into a priceless whole.
It’s funny that the only thing worth working for in the end is what happens after we die. It’s not money, not power, and not prestige. It’s the passing on of the memories—the good ones that bring joy and the bad ones that teach lessons—that ends up being the only thing worthwhile for our progeny. Instilling a sense of tradition and continuity becomes of utmost importance as one ages because we realize that the simple things in life—humble homes, trees, rivers, smiles, lessons—are the only things truly worth working for, worth living for, worth dying for.
Tradition and a way of life are the memories that are most poignant as we age, and the older we get the sharper these particular memories become. These memories of simple living and the joy of home are the greatest gift we can pass on to future generations because they’re the only things that last. Everything else falls into oblivion.
Is youth really a paradise? Or is it just the selective memories that make it seem so? Surely, there were severely difficult times, if I recall. Not everything was an idyllic heaven on Earth. But even those difficult and brutal times seem filled with the wonder of continuity and purpose and serendipity. So yes, I say that youth is a paradise made up of memories that we can call up at any time and bring into our present and our future through the secret connections on the precious string of pearls. Guard well, then, these priceless jewels and pass them on to those who will defend the memories.