As a small child, my parents had the 1970’s equivalent of a time share condo….but they had a time share in a Winnebago. I don’t know the exact arrangement, but for 2 weeks every summer my family piled into that Winnebago and toodled off on some destination. What I remember about these trips are the cool fold out, space age beds. What I have to show for those summers are some grainy photographs, my memories and a few souvenirs. The roadside Horney’s restaurants were giant yellow triangle buildings, diners with a gift shop. They were a fixture along Hwy 27. Our roadtrips predated the Florida Turnpike and much of the major interstate highway system. In the gift shop, we would get to pick something. A painted rock or a metal “license plate” for our bicycle that said our name and the state we were traveling through. We got viewmaster disks from Kill Devil Hill or Mammoth Caves. I have a tiny butter yellow bunny….Little Bunny Foo Foo….in my treasure box that I got somewhere along the way. To a child, that little trinket was an earmark. It designated an event like a roadside marker. As an adult, it is interesting to come back to that box of tiny, cheap, mass produced treasures and recall. I can remember sitting on the beach in North Carolina, wrapped in a towel, freezing. There is even a photo of me. But I do not remember the lighthouse. I would need my sisters to affirm that fact. My memory cannot find that information. I cognitively KNOW I climbed that lighthouse, but I do not recall it. What I remember is the sand in the Winnebago carpet just inside the door.
Through life, memories fade. We KNOW certain things happened. If asked our timeline, we can reiterate it. But, it helps to have mementos from our journey to give more texture. The scar from where I got stitches in my chin…on 2 separate occasions, is a living memento. It serves to trigger a greater detail of recall. Mementos also serve to affirm our life. They are the tags of my existence: “Lisa wuz here”.
I think another person can be a memento, a living souvenir. Along the path of my life, there are people who knew me when….they knew me in a particular space and time. They knew me as a serious 10th grader. They knew me as an idealist just starting medical school. They are mile markers….possibly even Rosetta stones. Written upon them and with in their memories are pieces of me. They have a clue to the bigger picture that is me. Sometimes the data they have is equivalent to a copy of a file I still retain and to which I have access. But the real discovery is to find someone….to rediscover someone….who holds a piece of me that I thought once lost. In fact, I may have even questioned that my memory was failing me, that I had embellished or taken a certain creative license….and what I thought was true was simply not me. With these kinds of memories, I have felt I had to accept I may not know the truth any longer. And then, shoved into the back of a closet…I find a long forgotten box…and old friend who knew me when……and they have a piece or two of the jigsaw puzzle that is me. They offer me those tiny files of myself, original files I either never had or cached out of my memory. And I hold these tiny bits of myself and feel amazed. It is like a key unlocking a door I had long forgotten could open. And I am affirmed. I DID know myself. I AM remembering something true and real. It was not some fantasy or fanciful imagination of my youth. It is a wonderful discovery. My own personal Mastercard commercial…..priceless.