Today I heard actor Michael Gross of 1980's sitcom "Family Ties" fame say that good memories always feel like they just happened yesterday, and that perhaps it was simply a function of age. A seasoned brain at all ages does seem to archive memories without regard to time, emotion or rationale. Our ability to recall is equally as random. Simply put, the process is mind-boggling.
I find it even more interesting how often those good memories are non-memories to other participants. Let me explain.
Imagine yourself a giddy teenager crushing hopelessly on the cutest boy. You had been friends since Junior High and while you knew he was oblivious to your affections you still broke every rule of engagement to make him notice. It was those wickedly blue eyes, his infectious smile and even his shy demeanor that embraced your heart and rattled your brain. Be patient I thought. One day he'll crash heart first into my web of irresistible feminine wiles. Besides, he was an athlete, a bookworm, not a girl chaser. I had a chance.
And then it happened. Luck was on my side. There were not enough people for a second cheer bus to Friday night's basketball game so fans were invited to ride with the team. I waited patiently watching players and cheerleaders alike board the bus. There he was - nice shirt, tie, letterman's jacket - gleaming like a reverent choir boy. I smiled and he walked right past. I had not noticed he was walking closely behind a little Mary sunshine of a blonde acrobatic boy toy. Dare I look? Oh yes, there they were nestled nicely into the back seat of the bus.
Ok, so she was this brazenly cute young thing with a rose petal complexion and teeth that glimmered from New York to Seattle when she smiled. She was so petite and fit that I imagined she could wrap her left leg around the back of her head. I was merely a freckle-faced redhead with a penchant for chocolate chip cookies and Broadway music. My left leg couldn't reach higher than my waist. My dream died that night. We all knew what happened in the back seat of a bus after dark. So how does this relate to memories?
I am still best friends with this blue-eyed phenomenon. He has indeed become the man of the world I envisioned - an intelligent, successful businessman with a beautiful family and an impressive cyclist routine that puts thousands of miles under his feet every year. And no, if you're silently wondering, he did not find happily ever after with that little Mary sunshine of a blonde acrobatic boy toy. But, he does not remember this event. Period. He dares to dangle plausible deniability in the face of that day's staggering emotional scars! How can two people catalog memories so differently? In today's society there would be Instagram photos and Twitter accounts of this life-changing betrayal. But back then we only had our recollections.
The problem with the memory process is that the agony of heartache or even the lack thereof may distort the reality of any event. Perhaps we should just savor the ability to recall at all rather than harbor ill will based on only a memory. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
After what seems to be the longest year in the history of humanity, the holidays are finally upon us. The joy and reverence that has always accompanied this special time for me is truly challenged this year. Should families gather? Should everyone attend? How much risk is acceptable? Is any risk acceptable? I can't honestly answer these questions, but I am absolutely certain about one thing: Giving thanks is pandemic immune and doesn't pose a single risk to anyone.
Yes, technology can still safely bring us together visually, but the scrambling hustle and bustle of crazy cooking traditions and the much anticipated deluge of rich foods and confectionery delights could be lost in translation. Yet, if you pause just long enough to revisit the reasons for the season, there are hidden jewels in this year's holiday treasure chest. Perhaps the meaning of Thanksgiving can revert from a celebration of overeating and football to a rediscovery revival of those things in our lives we are most thankful for.
I have my scent warmers on timers this year. They start heating long before sunrise.
Waking to holiday scents and baking smells wafting through the house transports my thoughts to simpler times. It brings meaning to the present through scents of the past. I cherish every moment, every memory, and every opportunity I have to pay forward my gratitude for a healthy and meaningful life.
What are you thankful for? This year, more than ever, speak it, write it, savor it, embrace it, and most preciously, share it.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
One would think the pursuit of youth for those already aged to perfection would be a slam dunk. A little injection here, a little suction there and a touch of color will highlight, or erase, the ever-changing hues in the autumn of our lives. Even a free social media filter works wonders. Easy, right? Augment the obvious with visual improvement and our essence will soar. Life is good! The presentation of youth must be the key to aging with grace.
Ah, but the Wizard behind the curtain has yet to provide a magic pill for intellectual prowess. Our own introspection yanks the brutal chain of reality once you find yourself in the kitchen with absolutely no idea why you're there. Enhanced beauty or not, now your every thought, decision, morsel of knowledge hangs in the balance. Will it be skillfully filed in your memory archives or liberated into the abyss of who knows where? Is this the personification of the "failing fast" obsession of a youth-challenged generation?
Too many times we compare our failures of the present to our successes of the past. What a ridiculous thing to do. My past successes were almost always couched in the exuberance of youthful innocence. Goals were often set without honest regard to actual achievability, pursued with unfettered passion, and celebrated every step of the way regardless of outcome probability. Nothing was impossible. Every effort was applauded. Ambitions were even modified sometimes to ensure success. What a concept! But as aging complicates the life process, our definition of success rarely adapts to lowered expectations. And so we fail, or at least we believe we fail. What a travesty.
Perhaps age-challenged fools need to lighten up and learn to enhance their souls instead. While souls may benefit from a little focused introspection, the angel wings that allow us to soar, you see, never require augmentation. You just have to learn how to spread them and take flight. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
Life is not always about good and evil, right or wrong or just conservative or progressive ideologies. There's always the soft, sweet and maybe quietly fearful reality of a first date and the hard-core kick'em to the curb belly wail of your team's anthem at tournament time. Anyone who remotely thinks that life is just one sweet pursuit of happiness without adversity may be misguided by the sugar-coated rhetoric of RomComs and Hallmark movies. Every aspect of our existence teeters on the edge of easy or hard so delicately that the middle ground seems inexplicably blurred.
And then there's age.
It's a simple, monosyllabic three letter word born of Middle English and Anglo-French origin. Webster calls it the length of time during which a being or thing has existed, a
period of human life. Age is the consummate example of life in the middle ground blur: highs/lows, ups/downs, happy/sad, good/bad. It's a fragile journey designed to rattle every perception of life's expectations.
Until you add a "d" at the end. Aged. There is no middle ground. Welcome to a deep-dive into the bowels of purgatory.
I have found that the "Golden Years" are actually the "Rusted Iron" years devoid of any sign of precious metal. Unless, of course, you revel in the symphony of creaking joints, the feel of thinning hair through your fingers or the bulge of bunions on your feet.
Alas, however, if there is any salvation in the Golden Years it is found in the unadulterated pursuit of youth. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.