It’s Monday again, and I have a long list of things to accomplish this week. Deadlines, business responsibilities, housework. The usual routines of day-to-day living. Yet I spent my weekend revisiting the past. I had lunch with a dear friend from childhood whom I haven’t seen in too long. I learned that another school friend was recently killed in an accident. I had an unexpected call from another old friend from high school, and touched base with a few more on-line. Was “friended” by a couple of relatives I haven’t seen in a few years, so caught up with them, as well. And the deaths of several famous, iconic figures from my youth figured prominently in the national news reports. Nostalgia.
My mother-in-law will be 88 in August. Though she isn’t as active as she once was, her health is still relatively good and her mind as sharp as ever. She tells us stories all the time about when she was a child, a teenager, a young mother. Get her to talking about playing basketball in high school (she was 5’11”), and her eyes light up with the spark of competition. She can still remember specific games and plays, and still gets indignant over bad calls and unsportsmanlike conduct of other players. She still remembers what she wore to certain parties, still describes in detail the lunches her mother sent with her to her little school in rural northeast Arkansas. She says she feels like the same person she was seventy years ago; she looks in the mirror at times and wonders who is that old woman looking back at her?
I saw the signs of aging in my long-time friend — and I’m sure she saw the differences in me — but I understand what my mother-in-law means. The years rolled away as I chatted with my friend over lunch. We’ve spent the better part of the past thirty years in separate states, raising our families, pursuing different careers and life goals, and yet those memories of our youth made time irrelevant. We spoke of my late mother, and I saw the love in her eyes for the woman who’d been such an important part of her life, too. We talked about her mother, who is in failing health and has already left this world in some ways, and she knew I remembered the vibrant, funny, busy and talented woman her mother was before the years took their toll. We both remembered our lost schoolmate, whom neither of us had seen in some time, as the boy with the thick blond hair and mischievous blue eyes, and I know we shared thoughts of other classmates already gone, though our focus was primarily on the present.
I struggle to keep up with technological advances (I’ve mentioned that before in this blog), but I enjoy learning new tricks. At a meeting last week, a speaker showed us how to make video montages of photos and music (all copyright clear, of course!) to promote our books or however we might use the skill. To practice, I came home and made a computer slide show of some family photos, using special effects and transitions and Chris Daughtry’s “Home” in the background (copyright protected, so I won’t share it with anyone but my own family). I’m still very much an amateur, of course, but I was quite proud of the end result, and I had to share it with my girls, who live so far away from me now. Yet we have all those shared experiences bonding us together, making us feel closer. The miles that separate us can’t break that bond. The photos are merely cues to the memories we carry in our minds and hearts.
While relatively rare in real life, amnesia is a tried-and-true fictional device for a reason. Our memories define us. They make us who we are. If we wake up without the recollection of our past, are we even the same people? How different would we be if our actions weren’t guided by the conditioned responses of previous experience?
This is a theme I’m exploring in a current project — one that isn’t even sold yet, and that I’ll tell you more about later. It’s a very different type of story for me, and quite a challenge to write. We need those challenges to keep our future fresh and exciting — but it’s nice to revisit the past sometimes, as well — especially the happiest times.
Last call for entries!
I will be drawing this Wednesday, July 1, for the winner of the autographed Harlequin novella anthology, featuring stories by bestselling authors Candace Camp, Allison Leigh and me! To enter, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org — for more details, click the tab above marked “Enter to Win.” Good luck!