It’s been 20 years since my last summer vacation at my grandparents house, yet I still remember it so clearly. I woke up this morning thinking about going to thrift shops, picking up snow cones, and eating out at Giorgio’s in Port Charlotte, Florida. I still remember how predictable I was in picking out my snow cone flavor, always cherry, while my younger cousin took the risk on something new, but also took FOREVER to decide. He would sometimes get the Snickers snow cone, which involved shaved ice and chocolate syrup with peanuts and caramel. It sounds gross, but I could seriously go for one right about now. I haven’t had any luck in finding one similar since.
What is it about certain memories that just follow us our whole lives? My grandma, suffering with dementia, still remembers her dad and her puppy and will sometimes tell my aunt how her dad is coming to pick her up with a puppy she had when she was little. Why does that memory stick with her so well, yet she can’t remember that my aunt is her daughter…?
Whenever there is a rain storm in the afternoon, it always reminds me of Florida. In southwest Florida it rains every afternoon in the summer. You’d think they were in a rainforest or something, but it never fails. Downpour, 2pm-ish. If you happen to be at the beach, just wait it out in the car. It’ll be back to sunny skies in 30 minutes or so. On the off-chance you get a whole hour of rain, it might be best to pack it up and take it back to the house.
My grandparents had this adorable 3 bedroom, 3 bath model home they bought when they first moved to Florida. There was even a pool in the backyard, because, as we saw flying down from NY to FL, EVERYONE in Florida has a pool. They had won a church raffle, as only my grandparents could, and won a brand new Chevy Cavalier, or something of the like. They sold that and put in a pool. My cousins and I were very grateful for that. I still remember coming in from the pool, getting my grandma’s carpet all wet, and changing into our regular clothes and watching MTV in the living room while the afternoon rains drenched the humid tar outside. The rains would stop and the road would steam.
There are certain smells that remind me of that time as well. I once stood in a Starbucks line in Kansas City, Kansas, in front of a man who was wearing my grandpa’s after-shave. My grandpa had died a few years prior and I had rarely smelled that smell since. I turned around to ask the man what he was wearing. He sheepishly said it was a really old after-shave that he has to order online. I told him he smelled like my grandpa. He laughed and said ‘is that a good thing?’ I told him it was a very good thing, unless he expected me not to hug him. I’m pretty sure I hugged him either way.
Sometimes when my husband has been working outside in the heat all day, and then comes in and takes a shower, there is a smell on him that reminds me of my grandpa sitting in church, back home on Long Island. My grandpa tended the gardens at the church, and his happy place was being outside with his hands in the dirt, doing something for someone else. He would be all sweaty and gross and I would still want a hug and a kiss from him. He would begrudgingly give me one. And then he would get all shined up and gleaned up and polished for church on Saturday evenings. He would come out a new man. And he would have this certain scent on him. My husband will often have that same aroma, and I just want to cuddle up next to him and wrap my arms around him, taking it all in, and taking me back to being 7 and still being ok.
One of my favorite writers says, ‘If you are having trouble in this life, trying to figure out who you are, go back to the 7 or 8-year-old version of yourself, and ask them.’ My 7-year-old version of myself would say this was the last time she felt…safe. Eight is where it all got weird. What did 7-year-old me want to be when she grew up? Maybe a doctor, a veterinarian, a teacher. Who knows. She probably wanted to be just like her grandma when she grew up. Nan had the best job in the world. She worked at a video store, and she took care of me. Clearly she had won the jackpot. Free movies and unlimited time with her favorite granddaughter. Granted I was her only granddaughter at the time, but I’d like to think I was her favorite bar none.
The things we remember, and the things we forget. The things that take us back to the places we so fondly remember, and the things we so fondly miss. Why is it when I’m driving down the road to places I’ve been a million times before, I can so quickly get lost in a daydream of memories from my past? Why is it that when I’m having one of those really tough days, that comes in the most inconvenient way, do those memories I’ve been trying to escape rise to the surface? I often have to capture each thought and hold on to the fact that these memories and these moments are from the past. I’ve been able to move past them, accept forgiveness in Jesus, and hold on to the healing He’s given me. Somedays that’s easier said than done.
I would love to instill in every young person how much easier it would be to simply NOT do all the things, and screw up all the moments of your young life, and just get it right the first time. If I sit here and think about all the heart ache I could’ve saved myself in the 30 years since I was 7, I might make myself sick. As the apostle Paul said, ‘Why do I do the things I don’t want to do and the things I want to do I don’t do.’
I’m currently involved with Bob Goff in Everybody Always. He makes a very valid point in that people won’t do what we tell them to do or what they should do. He says instead we should tell people who they are. If you tell someone they are dumb for doing x, y, and z, how likely are they to stop doing x, y, and z, and in-turn agree with your assumption of them being dumb. Not very likely in my experience!
This is great advice for the younger generation that I am currently a part of raising up. If I tell my daughter constantly how pretty she is, and how cute she is, and how beautiful her head, eyes, ears, nose, whatever…if I’m telling her all these things all the time, Lord help the poor man who has to put up with this girl for the rest of his life because someone told her she was pretty one too many times. But if I tell her how strong and how smart she is, and how she can do anything she puts her mind to, and even compliment her unwillingness to bend or break, or fit in and instead stand out…what is the effect this will have on her life? Will she remember these words? Will they be instilled in her heart, kept locked away and secret just for her to access, letting no one else in to steal those from her, letting no one else know the combination to steal what her parents locked away in her vault years prior…? I sure hope so.
I believe parenting is one of the greatest (and worst) social experiments ever. Everyone does is differently, no two do it the same. And we don’t really know what we did or didn’t do right until it’s too late. What a crap-shoot. It’s like betting on 35 black and hoping the tiny little ball lands in the exact right place at the exact right time. And God forbid you were the first-born… it’s likened to the first pancake, it always turns out burnt, and you haven’t quite figured out your timing ratio yet.
I’m a first pancake. Look how well that turned out! First Pancakes UNITE!
Poor first pancake. The second gets better, but even then you’re really just grasping at straws or throwing spaghetti on the wall. I’m much more protective of my second pancake, and I think I’ve gotten a few more things right, but that first one, man, he’s had a rough go of it. I’m praying Jesus is the gap that fills in alllllllllllll the holes in this parent’s parenting. I’m praying that the memories they have and they keep and they come back to while driving and daydreaming in their 30s are more happy ones than bad ones. That they remember the good Christmas’ and the good road trips and the good dinner conversations, and not the ones where mom and dad may have lost their sh@$^ that day or night or week. I wonder what smells will bring them back to this cabin, this home, this summer, this year in particular.
Hmm. What a funny thing a memory is and what power it has to transport us back so quickly, so effectively, that we almost forget where we are in the present.