I love to travel and I hate cheesy souvenirs and t shirts. My number one collection that grows from every single adventure, trip, or event is memories. Yep – I collect memories. They do get dusty and I realize that with age, my collection will likely deteriorate. But I’m not the only keeper of my memories. They are revisited when my memory mates join me for a visit. We laugh, cry, relive the shock or fear of something stupid we did, remind each other of a missing memory, fill in the blanks of “the rest of the story”.
Sometimes, memories came at the currency-free cost of my dignity. I have laughed til I peed and don’t tell me you haven’t. But I bet you haven’t laugh-peed at a gas pump in a snowstorm somewhere in Minnesota, or even in the snow after a clumsy slip on the ice. Have you peed atop the fortifying wall of a Welsh Castle because a good gale wind grabbed the hem of your dress and waved a flag of surrender around your waist? I have. The last time I left a pee puddle was on the Pathway of Paul the Apostle in Ancient Corinth. I might be on the border patrol radar for that. I blame my sister. I blame her for all of it. She laughs like a wheezing dog hacking on a hairball, truly giving pause for whether or not she needs respiratory intervention. Her laugh makes me laugh and I pee and then we talk about it years later and laugh some more.
Some memories are a comical trip down aggravation lane. That night we rode the megabus from Memphis to Chicago and were delayed for an hour and a half standoff between a crackhead passenger and the St. Louis 5-0. The chuckle comes from the rising question, “What in the name of transportation horrors were we thinking when we got on that bus in the first place???” We brought bags of candy and donuts… I’m pretty sure that kept us from getting murdered. Our most hilarious memory of irrational irritation comes from when my sisters and I were young. We were traveling on the Audobon and we got the giggles… bad… out of control snort giggles. I’m not kidding, my mother’s head turned like it was on a weathervane. She conjured a stink-eye from the Cyclops and said, “Girls! Stop laughing! Your father is trying to drive!” I don’t know if I’ve been in worse trouble, but I’ve been in trouble for worse. She’s totally allowed to play the exhaustion card on that one; we put some miles on that VW Van cruising across Europe. And we put some mile markers on our memory highway.
I also have memories from somber moments of reflection on hallowed ground. The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Arlington Cemetery, the 9/11 memorial in New York City. To honor the lives of victims of war and atrocities is my honor and obligation as a citizen of this world. It’s not pleasant, but the memory commands a perspective that resurfaces when life takes a twist and I think I’ve got it rough. Or when a parade of veterans rolls down Main Street on a cold November afternoon.
I have thrills and chills memories. Skydiving, hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, raising the roof with a sold out crowd singing “Hey Jude” at a Paul McCartney concert. My sister and I once drove to New Orleans to stand ankle deep in the slimy mud of Jazz Fest for that moment, that one moment that stood still in time as Simon and Garfunkel sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.
I couldn’t possibly catalog my entire collection of memories. Most of the time they are the delightful gift of serendipitous situations that appear like a stunning seaside sunset as you top the hill of a country road. The look in my husband’s eyes, the thrill in my children’s voices, the smile that spreads across my face as I turn the page of a photo album – those are what seal the memories in my heart. I am thankful, so thankful, for my memories. All of them. Near and far. Good and bad. Stunning and somber. Silly and sappy.
I’m reminded of a reminder: The Israelites were frequently commanded to remember the Lord their God. Over and over through their victories and catastrophes, paralysing doom that gave way to miraculous intervention, they were admonished to remember the Lord their God.
My memories aren’t independent of my faith, they’re intertwined with it. Oh I get all excited about the next adventure and I act like I’ve coordinated a grand spectacle. Almost always, I am humbled by a moment or a monument that clearly reveals the presence and power and providence of the Lord my God. And I’m reminded to remember.
I’m thankful for my collection of memories. I’d love to give you a delightful memory. Come on an adventure with me, make a memory, but most importantly remember the Lord your God and all he has done for you.
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11