What's in your jar?

November 4th, 2014

Turkey was a central theme in the last two blogs. I personally find the smell of turkey significant to unlocking memories of similar occasions stretching back through my childhood up to the present. But turkey isn't the only memory.

I also remember my grandparent’s preserves with fondness: jellies, jams, vegetables. Preserves are a bit of summer sunshine transported to winter with all the care of craftsmen who loved their family by using frugalness and expertise. I mention this as a segue into looking at these strings of memories not so much for the actual memory as for the new experience when the preserves are decanted.

I watched a mother and daughter the other day. Mom was a patient at a care facility and, on this occasion, had her head resting on her daughter’s shoulder. They were both happily singing along with the gospel songs I was playing.* The daughter told us later that Mom could not, did not talk much any more. Her particular brand of dementia had taken away much of her facility in that area. But when Mom hears that music again, it is the frailty that is forgotten; she can sing along.

The daughter says that for a brief time, she has her mother back and can once again be with her Mom to share in a favored pastime. She said, “Thank you for singing guys; you brought my Mom back.” Mom, you see, had preserved those treasures so that they could be decanted and enrich the winter of her life. We didn’t bring Mom back; she had some memories stored away for the occasion. We maybe just loosened the lid on the jar.

To me, to be old is to actually share in new experiences enriched by long memories. To plumb the lines that go back through the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve tried to learn to help bring meaning to the present and the people in my life. Being old is about building treasures for the future. I hope for you a legacy that includes memorable events and an attic full of preserves.

Who knows? Maybe together we can turn the word “old” around one more time until we can gladly claim being old and not have to shake our canes at people!

But these things don’t just happen. Events worth remembering are not accidental. You need to build them into your day. You have to go pick the fruit, remove the peel, slice and preserve. You need a recipe for preserves.

Go with the best fruit. You don’t can fruit from winter pickings. You have to watch for the good stuff. Capture it. Take pictures. Write about it. Talk about it. Make it a favorite story.

Don’t sit around. There is fruit available most any time. Maybe you don’t like Thanksgiving. So, why not celebrate Mother’s Day? Why not celebrate the day you retired? There is always an event worth lifting up to cherish and preserve.

Be invitational. The best parties are conspiracies. It often takes many hands together to make an event special. My grandparents made preserves. But they had a better time making preserves when they had help. So be sure and invite people you want to share with.

Be repetitive. Do something repeatedly. It is the repetition that helps build memories that can be recalled when other current or infrequent events seem so distant or lost to us. I remember a lifetime of Thanksgiving dinners, for example. Mom in the story above actually had to sing those songs many times to build up a cache; that is how you preserve memories.

Until next time. How’s retirement going for you? Got any good recipe hints for preserving memories?

edz …the retired guy

*I play in a musical group that frequents three nursing homes every month. We primarily do gospel music as it is popular and easy to sing to. Our customers like it! And they remember it!

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