I remember the day my dad took me (4 years old) and my sister, Sarah (1 year old), to run errands. The three of us shared the bench seat in his old white Datsun truck. Dad needed to stop at the bank, on our way home. He told us to wait in the truck for him – he’d be fast. And when Sarah started crying, and it didn’t feel like he was being fast anymore, I tried to open the passenger door, to get out and find him. I pulled the handle. And I pushed the door. I knew how it worked. But it didn’t open. My dad then came out of the bank, and we drove back toward home. I didn’t tell my dad that I had tried to open the door. It hadn’t worked, so I didn’t think anything of it. Until, while in motion and on a busy street, that old door swung wide open. None of us were buckled – no one buckled up back then – and 1-year old Sarah flew off my lap and out of the moving truck. My dad reached out quickly and grabbed me by my feet. I remember very clearly my head hanging out of the car, and I could no longer see Sarah’s body. I don’t remember anything after that. I assume Sarah had minimal injuries. I don’t remember a hospital visit. I don’t remember my mom’s reaction. I don’t remember ever talking about it again, in fact.

That’s a memory that I have from a pretty young age. It stuck with me, that memory. We get the impression that we don’t have a lot of control – we remember what we remember, for whatever reason, and it’s kind of out of our hands. And that’s true, to an extent. Kind of like we look like what we look like, for whatever reason, and it’s kind of out of our hands. That can be true to an extent, but there is a lot we can do – in both areas – if we are intentional about our appearance, or intentional about our memories.

Here is another one. I was maybe 3 or 4. My brother, BJ, and I shared a bedroom. We also shared our bedroom with all our toys – big and small. And they were usually out, scattered across the floor, where the two of us would play for hours each day. One day, BJ, just one year older than me, was trying to show me how strong he was, by picking up my baby doll’s wooden cradle, and, like a Superman move he’d recently seen, throwing the cradle with all his might across the bedroom. The dent in the wall was there until the day we moved out of that home. This one I think I remember because the story has been retold, over and over again. It’s a fun story, that really says something about the way my brother viewed himself, in relation to his younger sisters, and how we viewed him, as well. It’s a story worth retelling.

The podcast episode I listened to today was so much fun. Meik Wiking is the author of “The Art of Making Memories”. And what an inspiring interview I got to “sit in” on today.

While writing this book, Miek took himself back to his childhood home. He hadn’t been there in 20 years. But, just being in that home and in that neighborhood again triggered memories. An alley way he talked about driving past, brought back a memory of his mother encouraging him to do something he’d always wanted to do. That was a memory he hadn’t had access to before. Being there brought it back.

Our childhood memories affect, and will continue to affect, our identities, our likes and dislikes, our security, our happiness.

What if our memories are not all positive? We can’t control what happened in the past. The past is over. The past is a neutral circumstance.

But we can choose what our thoughts about our past memories are, now.

Remember, if we are punishing ourselves with our own emotions, and we don’t want to feel resentful or angry anymore, its an option to change those emotions.

The answer is found in the model. We know this model. We’ve memorized this model. My children have memorized this model. We change our feelings by changing our thoughts. Our thoughts create our feelings. Period.

  • C CIRCUMSTANCE – neutral and out of our control, like our past, right?

“Notice that in between that C line and that F line is that T line. Do you know what’s great about the T line? It protects your F’s from your C’s! The biggest protection between me and what other people do or memories from my past), are my thoughts.”

Brooke Castillo

This is within our power.

And then now, looking forward, we can also have the power to choose what memories to now make and retain. In Meik’s words,

“You and I can become memory architects.”

Here are some ideas he has, as to how to do that:

  • Digital detox. Even if memorable moments are happening all around us, we will miss them if we are not present with them, right?
  • In the moment, ask yourself, what can I do to remember this moment? Use your senses. What am I seeing? What am I smelling? What am I hearing – who’s voice, or what music, or what other sounds? What did I taste? What am I feeling? Use these – memorize these triggers.
  • Outsourcing our memories. Using our senses can fall into this category. Also journals, photo albums, or mementos. In Primary, when a child is preparing for baptism, I like to bring the child a white towel, to use to dry themselves after their baptism, in hopes that when they use the towel again and again, the memory of how they felt after their baptism returns. That’s what I’m talking about when I say, mementos. I always liked what my Aunt and Uncle have done with a wall in their basement – they’ve covered the entire thing with hundreds of snap shots of the family over the years. And whenever they have guests in their home, no matter how many times they have been in their home before, they go straight for that wall, to look at those pictures – 45 years worth now.
  • “First experiences stick better”. I remember my first crush in Kindergarten. I remember the first time I ate sushi. I remember the first time I could see that my prayers were answered. My first love. Our first married fight. The first time I played the piano with the congregation singing along. Meik says it’s easier to recall memories from our teenage years and our YSA years because of the number of firsts that happen during those years. To continue to make and retain memories, “seek out first or novel experiences!” Get out of our comfort zone, right? New foods. New hobbies. “Novel experiences is also how we can try and stretch out the flow of time.”
  • Also, “building in a little bit of struggle into our experiences can be helpful.” Like the difference between driving to Squaw Peak, and snowshoeing up Squaw Peak. I’ve done both. One is way more memorable.

Here are a few ideas on helping the children build memories. To a degree, we can be the architect of their memories, as well.

“We can influence what they remember.”

  • If used infrequently, stating to the children, “I hope you will always remember this moment” can be a powerful tool in creating a sticking memory. I have had a few teachers in my past use this tool. And, to this day, I can remember when I sat in Sunday School or in Dr Hill’s class, when the teacher said, “Never forget this moment”.
  • Share memories you intentionally want the children to keep, over and over again. It will solidify the memory in my mind, as well their’s. Along with this, keep and share pictures intentionally. Our first trip to Paris, when the children were very little, was one of the most difficult trips we have ever taken. The children were simply too young, and we tried to fit too many things into our long-weekend in France. We had melt-downs every day. But I only took pictures of the children at high points. And it’s those high points that they now only remember.

“Helping kids – or our kids as grownups – look back and think of a happy childhood, I think, is one of the responsibilities we have as parents.”

I think that it is also important to realize that we all have some false memories.

“Memory is capable of so many things, but it is also flawed in so many ways. That is good to be mindful of… I don’t necessarily have a monopoly on the truth.”

It serves us well to remember this! What we remember happening in our past may not be at all what happened. Or, it may have happened that way, but our interpretation of the characters involved may be faulty.

Can we get to a point where our memories only ever serve us and our relationships now? I think that’s possible. And I am not there yet. But I believe that is within our power to do.


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