Memories… and what we remember


Woman I worked with bought her grandmother’s house a few years ago.

One day, during a casual lunch conversation as the weather was improving, the discussion shifted to home gardens. One of her remarks was that she had been using the same greenhouse for her garden plants that her grandmother used. In fact…

She talked about working in that garden with her grandmother as far back as she could recall. Every season, they drove about two miles from the house to a roadside, family-owned nursery to select plants. Her grandmother knew the owners. They actually lived two roads from her house.

Over the years, she had been introduced to the owners, the owners’ children and then the owners’ grandchildren. It was the grandchildren that now ran the business.

As far as she knew, the only plants and seeds used in that garden, going back more than fifty years at that point, came from a single store.

I was thinking about that as Terry and I debated whether or not to start a garden this year. We are actually leaning toward not having one, but there are some ideas about perhaps having a couple of things out there and just not our usual full assortment. As we kicked everything around, I began to think about all of the gardens we’ve had since we’ve been together, and the many places we’ve bought items for them.

One house. One garden location. One source of plants. Five decades.

One couple. Several houses in multiple states. Countless purchases from multiple sources.

Memories are in some ways a combination of opportunity, necessity and action.

Are you a fan of the Marvel movies? More than twenty films make up the first three phases of Marvel’s connected universe. There are people that have seen all of the movies released to date in the same theater. While we’ve seen them, I don’t recall where Terry and I went to see them. In fact, because of travel possibilities, there’s a chance we’ve seen them in at least five different states.

Why do we do what we do? …go where we go? …remember what we remember?

Terry and I have some hosta plants in our yard. We brought them from our last house. Over the years, all four of our dogs can be connected to those plants. For instance, Lady and Travis used to lie on them in the summer, so we split the first plants up and moved some into different areas around the house. When we moved, several were transplanted with us to our current house, where they were planted, grown, divided, replanted and expanded. In the years since, we’ve brought some of the plants to both of the boys’ houses.

Want nostalgia and connections? There you go.

You often hear the idea that there’s a link between the personal importance of something and the capturing of information. I don’t have a doubt that’s true. (As so wonderfully offered as an example of several things, if you want to measure a dog’s intelligence, show the dog you have two biscuits in your hand and then only give the dog one.)

But I do wonder about moments where two people have vastly differing accounts of the same event. When brought up in the right situation, it’s like witnessing a weird game of telephone at the very moment where the signals got crossed and the division began.

Terry has been with me on every trip I’ve made to Disney World since 1997. Every so often we’ll have discussions… Ellen went on that trip with us… Richard went to that event, but not to the park the next day… we took a picture of that attraction being built during this trip, but it opened after that and we didn’t ride it until… and you get the idea. I may remember this handful of details, and she’ll recall another batch.

There used to be an ice cream stand in Warwick, Rhode Island. It was called Jenny’s. Don’t look for it. The landmark was part of the community for more than five decades, but it closed just about twenty years ago.

Jenny’s was located along a fairly main road for Warwick communities. A quick turn off the usual route, and it happened to be right there along one way to my grandmother’s. It was down the street from where we played baseball. It was a frequent stop of my youth, and I can still recall testing different toppings out each summer season on a soft serve cone.

The places and events are tucked away in corners of my mind. But a name… a date… a conversation… and suddenly they come flooding back.

We’re hoping to make our way back home in a few weeks. Discussions about restaurants to order from, people to wave at, and places to drive by have already begun. Some destinations are motivated by cravings. Others inspired by memories.

There are times when I wonder if, ten or more years from now, tomorrow’s visit will be as memorable as one from thirty years ago. (I suppose that depends on whether or not they have chocolate sprinkles.)


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