Many of you might remember the television dramedy The Wonder Years which ran on ABC from 1988 through 1993.
Set in the year 1968, the series followed young Kevin Arnold as he made his way through pubescent life – dealing with typical societal issues of that time. The show was narrated by a much older and wiser Kevin, often describing what is happening and ultimately what he learned during any given situation.
On the series finale of the show, as a group of young children can be heard playing in the background, the final narration is given:
“Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. On a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back…with wonder.”
While reminiscing about the past certainly signifies aging, it also represents an intangible treasure in the form of memories. Today I can’t remember algebraic equations or the timeline of World War II with any accuracy, but I consider myself extremely fortunate that I can replay, with great detail, moments of my past as if they happened only yesterday.
I can still clearly remember my first trip to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida with my family. Or the smell of puppy breath while holding our two-pound Yorkshire terrier after picking her up from the pet store some years ago. And more recently, the anxious, nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach the first time I saw my wife on our wedding day.
These are just a few of the many cherished memories locked within the photo album of my mind. I often find myself recalling those memories of the past whenever I’m feeling sad about the loss of a loved one, lonely or just needing to remember a time when things were simpler and life wasn’t always a struggle.
There’s a very good reason why people continually remember good times from long ago. American actor and composer, Oscar Levant, once wrote, “Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember”. And what better place to remember happiness than in a fond memory from the past.
My grandfather battled Alzheimer’s disease for many years. For those unfamiliar with the devastating illness, it ultimately robs the mind of the ability to remember, eventually causing the sufferer to withdraw from living life altogether. It’s disturbing to watch someone afflicted with this disease and unimaginable to me that it possesses the ability to erase memories from our mind forever.
It’s a devastating reality to wake up one day and not remember your life and everyone and everything that helped to shape it. His disease made me realize just how much we take the gift of remembering for granted each and every day.
People have questioned some of the memories I have from my childhood – in disbelief I suppose that I could remember something that occurred over twenty years ago. But the brain is a miraculous organ – retaining even the smallest, sometimes the most-minute details of our lives. I guess as long as I have the ability to remember people and places and events, I will always be able to hold on to a part of my life that may no longer exist.
I hope many of you reading this are blessed with a plethora of happy memories from years gone by – keeping them safely tucked away in the diaries of your mind until you need a little reminder of what used to be.
“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” – From the television series “The Wonder Years”