The answer came to me almost immediately, but I hesitated.
Did I really want to tell him the truth? It sounded so cheesy and clichéd.
“My memories,” I responded in mildly abashed honesty.
He looked taken aback. I guess I was supposed to respond with my laptop, cellphone or wallet. Maybe the photo album made for me by my friend Krystal or my favorite book. Perhaps he meant for me to say my iPod because music often acts as a catalyst for writing; to choose my book of poems penned by my 11-year-old imagination; or debate over whether I would save my drawer of letters or grab my always incomplete journals.
He wanted to know why.
“Because I can replace almost anything else,” I explained. “My memories have been built up over years. They are one of my most precious treasures.”
You don’t believe I was so eloquent in my response? Fine, you got me. I don’t remember every word for word, but I do recall my intent.
Losing my memories would be tragic — all the more so because I may not understand the loss.
Some people recall being born. God must have known this was just too much for me to handle. Nothing in me wants to remember coming through the birthing canal.
It is hard to figure out my first memory. I know it took place in California somewhere within the first three years of my life. The memories in question all have the same bleary disconnect.
They are also all real winners. Either I was scooping butter with my finger into my mouth, waiting patiently for my mother to fix my hair or catching said hair on fire as I screamed about not wanting to see Santa.
The next three years were spent running barefoot across a tropical island. Looking back, it seems as if we neighborhood kids ran around like a motley pack of dogs. We hunted geckos to keep as short-term pets, ripped through dry Ramen like it was Heaven’s manna and played capture the flag with no mercy.
One time, my older brother had our dog Maggie drag our younger brother in a Fisher Price toy car. Everything was going fine until Maggie spotted a fellow animal.
It was Devin’s first car crash. I can only hope he will always be so lucky. He must have flipped over a good two times before Maggie realized what was going on.
I remember crossing the Pacific as my family and I flew back to the mainland. My dad was sitting next to me. He noticed I had a Band-Aid on my knee.
“Maybe it is time you take the Band-Aid off,” my father suggested. To be fair, it might have been looking pretty rough at this point. I was not known for my ability to stay clean as a child.
“Nah, not yet,” I replied as I tested the sides. “It’s still sticky.”
My dad remained silent for a moment before looking out the window.
“Oh look, you can see the whales from here,” he pointed out. Excitedly, I turned to the window.
“I don’t see th—” my words were cut off as my father quickly removed the offending bandage.
Later, we would have a similar moment outside of a grocery store in Germany. My body was sore from basketball conditioning. As I refused to stretch, my father took it upon himself to clamp his hands on my shoulders and sprint us both toward the store.
It did help.
(Let me just take a moment here to say my father may or may not have Machiavellian tendencies.)
My memories are reminders of how I became who I am today. Whether you are for nature or nurture, my recollections are a roadmap. Either they remind of the circumstances that shaped me or of the people I was destined to be like.
From climbing in a dogwood tree with my brothers to practicing my church solo with my mother, these are the cherished cargo I carry.
Sometimes I work up enough gumption to write in a journal for a sustained period of time. The practice usually lasts no longer than a month or two. Each time I go back because I have a desire to store as many memories as possible.
As you may have noticed, for those of us who do not have impairment, memories continue to grow, day in and day out. Some days are more memorable than others. Certain laughter rings louder. Certain moments feel sweeter.
(Have you noticed yet I am a hopelessly hopeful idealist?)
Blame it on my mild-20-something youth, but I don’t want to go back in time. Sometimes I hear people say, “Enjoy so-and-so, for it will be the best part of your life.”
First off, why would you say that to anyone? No pressure or anything, but make this the best days of your life.
Secondly, how do you know?
There have been difficult times in my life, but overall I have so thoroughly enjoyed myself. I don’t want to go back in time because I am excited about what the future holds and the opportunity to add more to my collection.
I am eager to make new memories even as the old ones are stored, revisited and treasured.