I pull the final beach towel out from the “swim bag” to place into the washing machine. Before throwing it in, I hold it to my face and breath in deeply. Ahhh…the smell of beach: suntan lotion, chlorine, sand, and salt water, all mixed together. A lump enters my throat. I don’t want to wash away the smell. I don’t want vacation to be over.
The past six weeks have been filled with family and fun. It all began on July 4, with a trip up to Winona Lake, Indiana to visit my brother and his family who were vacationing there for two weeks. All thirteen of us in one house. Wading in the creek, enjoying a meal together, and watching fireworks out by the lake. The next weekend found us in Ohio, visiting Randy’s family as we celebrated the graduation of our nephew, Timmy. Our ringbearer…how is he now eighteen and a high school graduate?! What a fun weekend of hanging out with Randy’s family. Cousins playing and swimming, Randy seeing “old” friends at the graduation party, walking with my sister-in-law, Tami (from which I was sore for days! Who knew walking could be so strenuous?!), hanging out in the jacuzzi with my sister-in-law, Heather. Swim lessons for two weeks back home. Then…craziness descended upon us as my brother David and his family of eight came to stay with us in our house for just over a week! Nine kids on “go” all day long: riding bikes in the street, slip-n-slide and kiddie-pool in the backyard, American Girl Doll town set up in the basement, playing house and imaginative play… Weeding and gardening with my sister-in-law (thanks, Jodi!). A day at the water park. Late nights watching seasons 3 and 4 of LOST after the kids were in bed. Then…the BIG trip: Florida. Our 4th Annual Rockness Family Beach Trip. Twenty people strong. Mom, Dad, my brothers and I, spouses, and twelve kids. A week full of fun: swimming in the ocean, riding waves, shelling, sand-castle building, long walks, swimming in the pool, the “night swim,” shows put on by the kids, tea parties with Grandma, family meals together every night, laughing, sharing, talking, relaxing…
And now it’s over. I want it to keep going. To last longer. To live closer.
I want to go back in time and re-live the fun. I can’t.
So, instead, I breath in deeply the smell of beach on the towel. I look – over and over again – at the pictures on my digital camera. I arrange a glass vase full of sea shells and of sea glass. I remember.
In Edith Schaeffer’s book, What is a Family?, she writes, “Memory! What a gift of God…memory can be of wonderful things one enjoys living and re-living.” She also goes on to say that “…Among other things, I personally have always felt that family is meant to be a museum of memories – collections of carefully preserved memories and a realization that day-by-day memories are being chosen for our museum. Someone in the family….needs to be conscious that memories are important, and that time can be made to have double value by recognizing that what is done today will be tomorrow’s memory.”
Part of me wants to remember the fun time this summer, simply because it was fun and I don’t want it to be over (protest!). As I read the above quotes (and the entire chapter on memories) by Edith Schaeffer, I am challenged to save the memories for an even far greater purpose.
Memories are powerful. The experience itself is powerful ~ the love and sense of belonging and value that comes in the midst of fun and family and vacation. The sense of being a part of something very special – a loving family – and being poured into. Being loved. But it will be the memory of these experiences that will have lasting value. As Schaeffer says later in her chapter on memories: “The memory multiplies the use of those hours into hundreds of hours!” So true. Even today as an adult, I remember family vacations and special times with extended family when I was a child. Those memories bring a smile to my face and a reminder that I belong to something special – my family. The memories remind me that I am loved. I want that for my children.
Memories are powerful because they allow us to hold people, and places, and experiences close to our heart. The people might be gone (or far away), the places might be distant, and the experiences may be over, but in the form of remembering, they can be with us forever and anywhere we go. Smells, sounds, tastes, and objects are all wonderful things that can trigger our memories and serve as reminders of something (or someone) special.
So, as the curator of the museum of memories in my home, I will surround my children (and myself!) with reminders of the fun we had this summer. Pictures of the beach and of family. Sea shells and sea glass (and the smell that accompanies them). The graduation picture of cousin Timmy. We will talk about and pray for our cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. We will remember. Not just because we’re sad it’s over, but because we’re thankful that it happened.
I drop the final beach towel in the washing machine. It pains me to wash away the smell. Thankfully, I’m not washing away the memories.
“I thank my God everytime I remember you.” Philippians 1:15