Dates and significant events have a strange power over us, I think.
Each Nov. 22 I remember exactly where I was the moment I learned that President Kennedy had been shot and was dead. Sept. 11 remains burned into my memory: My closest friend called in tears and told me to turn on the TV. I did and cried along with her. Since both my parents are gone, their birthdays - Nov. 4 and Feb. 22 - bring them clearly into my mind and heart.
I guess I'm a bit date- and event-sensitive these days because I'll be 72 in a week, and my husband will be 75. With gratitude, we'll celebrate with our children and grandchildren as we share memories, fun, hopes and dreams with them. There's so much we want to remember.
Photos and written notes seem to save an event and offer us the gift of recollection.
Tom Gallagher, one of my readers, wrote me recently about the value of remembering special moments.
"I urge you to urge your readers - if they've not done so already - to journalize their recollections, because even the best memory fades," he said. He went on to explain that he recently found a short story he had written in 1973 for a college English class about a childhood vignette that occurred in 1951 when he was 2 years old. It's one of his earliest memories.
He wrote, "It was about the passing by of an old junk dealer down my street driving a horse-drawn wood wagon filled with scrap iron in 1951, with the attendant sound of the wheels on Philadelphia's cobblestone pavers, the hooves and the rattle of the cargo. Until I recovered it, I had quite forgotten the earlier vivid recollection. These things are way points in the journey."
That phrase "way points in the journey" struck a cord and has remained with me. I shared it with my niece Miriam, who is the young grandmother of three. She told me about a gift her daughter had recently given her that she called "a gratitude journal."
Explaining that even though it's difficult for her to be disciplined enough to write in it regularly, she nonetheless has periodically recorded many of the big and small things she's grateful for. Looking back at earlier journals she kept when her three daughters were born, she said the notations refresh the memories and allow her both to save them and savor her life in a special way.
Writing isn't everyone's pleasure and we have each found other ways that also embed memories linking us somehow to something good or bad we don't want to or can't forget.
We save books and trinkets, notes and letters, tape recordings and videos. Every home is a history of way points in the journey. Every life has moments to save and relish. And each of us finds his or her own way to do this.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at JudyandOz@tampabay.rr.com. She is author of "Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age."