"We do not remember days, we remember moments."
~Cesare Pavese, Italian novelist
On Saturday I was walking down the Huntington Beach pier, and I happened to look over the railing down at the beach and witnessed a man propose to his girlfriend. It was really remarkable and moving, and I could hardly tear myself away from my overhead view. A young, but not that young, man and woman were with two pre-teen girls and they all had white shirts on with jeans. It looked like they had a professional photographer taking photos of them. They looked really happy, and then the man and woman hugged, and as she tilted her head up towards the sky, she clapped her hand to her mouth. She pointed up, so I looked up. An airplane was flying by with a banner reading, "Alisha, Will You Marry Me? -Dave" The four of them began hugging and crying and laughing and hugging some more. They continued for quite some time, and as they did, I made up what I thought their story was... that the man, Dave, was the dad of the two little girls (kinda seemed more like he was their parent) and that Alisha was his serious girlfriend whom the girls had grown to love and they were out here and the pretense to Alisha was that they were taking a holiday photo out on the beach to send out for the holidays. You could tell all four of them were ecstatic and just loved each other. The two girls had big smiles and kept wiping away tears as they went back for more hugs from both the man and woman. I wondered what the history was...second chance at true love? finally a mom for the girls...? I actually wiped away a tear or two myself. Now my made-up story is probably not accurate, but even so, it was evident that this moment was going to be really huge in its influence over the rest of each of their lives. None of them will probably ever forget that moment, or how it shaped them in the years to come.
I was thinking today about the two main ways that we remember our lives and pass on what we remember. Our personal histories are revealed in the specific moments that made an impression on us, and in the stories that we design to explain how and why we arrived at where we are now. Moments & stories...like photos & journals, show & tell. It's interesting to share with someone about the moments of joy, sorrow, surprise, fun, and learning in my life, or to hear theirs. It's necessary to develop a healthy way of recounting your history so that you understand yourself and what has made you You.
After some reflection once I got back from a month and a half in Thailand five years ago, I realized that nothing I'd ever done taught me so much about my strengths. I've done plenty of things that taught me how I am weak, but this trip I got to know myself intimately and learn what I was capable of when tested and constantly in the unfamiliar. That is the story that developed from the experiences and memory of that trip. As for the moments that remain vividly in my mind's eye; splashing through the rainforest for hours with a couple friends, the first time I strung together a sentence in Thai to try to connect with some of the kids at the center we worked at, riding on top of a van past rice paddies and trying to comprehend just how big the sky was in that place...they will always be a source of pleasure for me and remind me of who I am almost as much as the story does.
This stuff is on my mind partly because tomorrow morning in this new amazing womens' small group I'm in I am supposed to tell a brief 10-15 minute version of my life story. Gotta condense the most influential moments and stories of my life down into the most bare bones and telling format. Should be fun.