PLAIN THOUGHTS: Unexpected memories

Published 10:55 pm Monday, June 28, 2021

By Judith Hensley

There seems to be a lot of blank spaces in my memory. I know I’m getting older, but those blank spaces have existed for years. There are big gaps of my life that I simply can’t recall. Some people say that traumatic events will cause a person to block out memories. I’m not sure about that.

I’ve even been told that I should seek out a counselor to resurrect those missing spaces of time. I am not okay with that. If something happened that was traumatic enough that I don’t want to remember it and have blocked it, then why would I want to go back and relive it at this late date? I trust God for His healing, if I need it, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

I had a good childhood memory recently. When I am overnight at my mom’s, I sleep in the back bedroom on the second floor and leave the window open about 6-8 inches so I can feel the fresh air in my face. I did that all winter this year as my nights there were more frequent than usual. It helped me sleep better in a bed other than my own.

There was something so appealing about having the breeze hitting my face. One day last week I remembered something significant from my childhood. My bedroom window as a child was raised  in the summertime to let in some cool air (since hardly anyone had air conditioning). Most people slept in the hot weather with windows open. My bedroom faced the street on the first floor.

These days it certainly wouldn’t be safe on the ground floor anywhere to do such a thing – especially not a Chicago suburb where we lived. But in those days, we felt safer, and were safer. I loved the night breeze that blew in that window. I loved to listen to the pitter patter of raindrops on a stormy night. I loved the smell of autumn leaves from our front yard in fall and the fragrance of lilacs in the spring. Winter was the only season that my bedroom window was in lockdown for months.

Memories are tricky things. We know they’re buried somewhere in the gray matter of our brain. I don’t think any of our life experiences are truly lost, but they often get pushed to the back. Sometimes they are so far back that those images or feelings are never revisited. Then suddenly, something will trigger a memory totally unexpectedly.

The smell of something cooking in the kitchen may ring a bell of another time and another place of someone we loved preparing a special dish. The unexpected smell of a long forgotten, familiar fragrance may grab our attention as memories of someone else who wore that same scent come flooding back.

Looking out over a familiar landscape can bring back sweet images of people who were there with us in times past sharing the same view. I recently went through hundreds of my mom’s old photos. The number of people who have passed on in that stack of photos made me sad, but the people and events documented in them did not. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins by the dozens, parents, siblings, and friends all rose up to meet me in those photos.

A song at church may remind us of someone we’ve heard sing it many times. My mom has lost her singing voice, but the years and years she sang in church and the songs she loved will always be part of my good memories. A song on the radio can transport us back through the years to another time and place when we were listening to the same song and the friends who shared it.

In this past year with people not visiting in person as they once did, I miss making and sharing good memories. A pleasant memory from the past can make a whole day better. Good memories can make a whole life better.

2020 is a year I don’t seem to remember well. Parts of it I’d like to forget. I hope 2021 will be a source of good memories for all of us.