It will come as no surprise to longtime readers of this blog that I am an archivist at heart. A Christmas present from my son gives me a new way to act on this.
Using this light tent, I am photographing the artifacts in my care. Next, I will record their stories to print with them in a book for later generations to have. Item – Memory – Done.
As the new year approaches, I am especially aware of the importance of memories. End-of-the-year recaps consolidate our shared experience into memory on a public level, within our families, and in our own reflections.
My daughter is recording experiences in her daughter’s baby book as I once did for her. I will fill in the same kind of “Grandma’s Memories” books that I gave to my mom. We make calendars, mugs, and photo books to save our memories and share them with others. Emilie Loring wrote her memories into novels.
What was it like in their day? Oh, those fashions! How hard they worked to do things we now do with ease.
When Emilie Loring sat down to write, her building blocks were the present moment and her memories. Whether she wrote in Maine or in Boston, her present, physical setting crept into the story.
She sat down before the typewriter and resolutely kept her eyes from the window, that alluring window, beyond which the sea sparkled and beckoned, and outboards, scooting round the harbor like a flock of prehistoric waterfowl tempted her to join them.Give Me One Summer
Brooke nodded assent as they passed houses whose polished windows, violet-paned some of them, screened by laces of unbelievable fineness, regarded her with inscrutable calm.With Banners
As we’ve seen over and over here, memories of past times also found their way to the page: her father in particular, but really her whole family; children she played with on her block, writers she knew from the Boston Authors Club, plays given in her home as a child, the icy cold waters of her trip to Alaska. Asked if she had ever known men like the ones in her books, she responded, “Of course. Otherwise, how could I create them?”
I’ve stood in places where she stood and sought to experience something akin to what she experienced there. But of course, I can’t. My memories aren’t hers, my perspective isn’t the same. No matter how much I study current events of her time, I can’t know which of those events Emilie paid attention to nor what she made of them.
“Do you think that the same thought inserted in both our minds at the same instant would come out the same? It would be colored by our individual philosophy, twisted by our experiences, prejudices, enthusiasms, and emerge shaped by our individual conclusions.”Swift Water
We pay attention to what is meaningful, shaped by what we know and value as well as our purpose in the present moment. The skilled sailor sees patterns on the water and knows a gust is coming. The gardener sees not just “yellow and orange flowers,” but specific plant varieties that link to constellations of memory about their use and care.
…he followed the woman who was hurrying toward the boat landing along the path bordered with Orange King and Lemon Queen calendulas, which glowed like two rows of footlights against a background of dusky purple petunias.Where Beauty Dwells
Once stored, even small cues help us to recall memories. Emilie’s imagination rearranged hers to create brand-new stories. Photographs, newspaper clippings, a painting on the wall… any one of them might jump-start a new Emilie Loring novel.
Give some thought to that. What we keep is a cue for future recall. The photographs we take today will shape the memories we have tomorrow. Our keepsakes are tickets to memories we tucked away long ago. If only they would reveal their stories to other people!
This eagle rode atop the ensign of the Sally Blanchard, Emilie Loring’s boat. What outings, adventures, and conversations did it oversee? If she held it in her hand, what would Emilie remember? If she picked up her pencil, what story would she spin?
Sometimes, I hold it, knowing that Emilie Loring also did, and will it to tell me what it knows. It remains silent so far, but I’ll let you know if that changes!
Whether we make our memories on purpose, or whether they impress themselves into our brains by their constancy or instant significance, they become part of us, ready to inform, inspire, comfort.
“Memory stores are wonderful props in time of worry and anxiety.”The Mother in the Home (1917)
2020 certainly qualifies as a time of worry and anxiety! But this year, like all before it, will disappear into the past.
One hundred years ago, Emilie was writing The Trail of Conflict. The contents of her conscious mind filed onto lined paper and then into the book that we can read today. We can’t know what she thought when she looked out her window, pored through a picture album, or tucked that brass eagle away, but when we read her book, we know that those words, in that exact same order, were once in her mind. In those moments, we come as close as we ever can to experiencing what she did.
It’s natural to look back at the end of the year, and we have a few days more to do that. Then the new year will arrive, with all its promise and hopefulness.
2021 awaits our creativity; let’s make meaningful, happy memories!
Happy New Year and Happy Landings, everyone!