One of the things I've noticed when I go through my several boxes of items in storage is that I seem to accumulate things to remind me of other things I've done -The T-shirt from the environmental summit I taught when I was 13. The ticket stub to the symphony. The frisbee from the...I don't even remember off-hand what that was. Sometimes, I look at these things and remember and smile, but it's the remembering that makes me smile. The things, I find, tend to make me sad.
Because outside of my memory, they remind me of things I no longer have. Times that have passed. Chances that have come and gone. There's a certain sadness in that. I look at them longingly, like, "Remember how awesome that was?" without actually remembering how awesome that was.
I realized this profoundly when I decided not to get too attached to my white chaplain's coat this fall. They won't let me keep it.
That is a blessing. Because the truth is that I was already wondering what I was going to do with the "stuff" I might accumulate through this opportunity. I was already thinking about what it might be like in a year, two years, five years, to run across these things again and have that certain sadness and longing and pain for what once was, what I might remember without remembering. Thankfully, so far, I don't have anything that I don't have to give back.
Which is forcing me to live this experience fully and create my own memories, which is really how I'd rather do it anyway. It's reminding me that there's not going to be anything to remind me; whatever I want to take from this, whatever I want to hold with me forever, whatever is going to remain when December comes...is what I make of it between now and then. It's what I get from having this moment.
So I'm making momentos.
I'm making moments that I can go back to, places in my head and my heart that will always feel more like this than anything I could ever pick up with my hands. I'm reminding myself every day that I don't want to forget this and that I never want to look back with that certain sadness, thinking about how awesome this was without actually remembering how awesome this was.
It's the best way for memories, I think. Five years ago, I lost my basement in a flood. There were tons of photos and items down there that were my dad's. Tons more extended family memorabilia. Things that you can't replace and when you lose them, you feel like that part of you is somehow gone forever. I have known families who have lost everything in a fire, digging through the ash to find just one thing. That's the trouble with things - in the blink of an eye, they are gone. How do you remember to remember? But nobody and nothing can take this moment from you.
And here's what I think it is. This is just me talking. This is my hope for this moment and for many of thousands to come. I think it's been so easy for me to keep things because I'm scared to forget. Because I think I might one day need to be reminded of another day and what if there was nothing there to spark my memory? What if there was nothing there to point to another day? It's scary to think about. A momento is the chance to create the tangible intangible that will always remind you.
You see, it's not about having a good time. It's not about taking a mental picture. It's not about studying and surveying all the details so that you have this perfect image of this moment forever. It's about being transformed. You put yourself into this moment as wholly and fully as you can, without a thought to preserving this moment. You surrender yourself into the tide and let this wave take you wherever it's going, and you wash up changed on the other side. Then you look in the mirror and notice the difference. Sometime later, you see just this tiny little glimpse of something new in you that you'd never considered, and you wonder out loud, "Where did that come from?" And you smile because you remember. That was in this moment. That little hint of anything takes you back and there is no certain sadness; there is a tender joy.