March 14, 2020

The Power of Memories

courtesy Wikipedia

Let's deal with a much lighter, less serious subject today. We all need a break from virus talk for a moment.

Betty and I have become fans of a British show, "The Repair Shop" streaming on Netflix. In each episode three people or couples bring a cherished memento, piece of furniture, or keepsake that is very important to them to the shop. Either it is something from their childhood or from a generation or two earlier that is in need of serious renovation.

After an expert repair person has done his or her magic, the owner is invited back to collect the beautifully restored memory maker. In many cases, they are reduced to tears of joy or rendered speechless at seeing a cherished belonging as they remember it from all those years ago. A beloved teddy bear, a toy fire engine, a piece of furniture owned by a great grandparent, even an important sign from a small village that was falling apart generate these rather intense reactions.

Besides enjoying the process of watching each repair take place and being in awe of what someone can do with what seems to be destined for the dump, the emotional response of the reunited owner is actually quite moving. Each episode reminds me of the power that good memories have in our lives.

A few weeks ago the post, Now We Are Six, shared the grip Winnie the Pooh holds on my memories. Having an inscription in the front of one of the books from my grandmother, written almost 68 years ago, still stirs me and memories of Gran and how important she was in my childhood and as a teen. If I had my original Pooh bear it would be a perfect project for the folks at The Repair Shop.

I know I am lucky in this regard. I literally have no bad memories from childhood. My dad was unemployed for several stretches during my youth. Money was very tight; we existed on what my mom earned as an elementary school teacher. Even so, my brothers and I never felt deprived or that we were struggling. 

Mom and dad kept a positive attitude and helped us love simple times together like picnics or drives in the countryside. I don't remember us getting many new clothes during those periods, but we never went to school with something that looked shoddy or worn. If we outgrew shoes, I am sure mom and dad gave up something else to make sure we were taken care of. We lived in a loving, nurturing environment.

There is a very good chance that my attitude as an adult toward experiences instead of possessions sprung from those periods in my childhood. I have never felt compelled to keep up with the Joneses or worry that I didn't have what some others owned. I live comfortably and can buy what I need. But, shopping has never been a sport, or fun, or a way to kill time; it is a chore for me.

"The Repair Shop" is not real. The building that is used is actually just a barn on the grounds of a living history museum. For the TV series the inside is converted into a place where various repair and renovation experts appear at their own workbench.

The people who bring heirlooms for repair are prescreened and told when to bring in an item. They are not charged for what can easily be hundreds, if not thousands of pounds (dollars). Even so, the emotional attachment of the people to each item is profound. 

What's my point?  The power of memories is very real. It is important to understand the place they hold in our life and what effect they have had on us. Not all of us had the type of memory-building childhood that I did. Comments shared in other posts have made that clear. I know of people who were abused, neglected, marginalized, and make to feel responsible for some of their parent's failings.That is heartbreaking and leaves marks that never go away.

If that describes you may I give you a virtual hug and urge you to try one thing: search your personal databank, the place in your mind where memories reside, and recall one or two good reminiscences, a recollection of some experience, event, toy, or childhood friend, and bring that into clear focus. Force the bad stuff into the back of the closet, if only for awhile. 

On days when the world seems out of control or your personal life feels topsy-turvy, one or two memory when everything made sense, when the future was a shining path still to walk, will give you the type of comforting jolt that only a powerful memory can.

13 comments:

  1. Honestly, that show sounds totally boring to me. A bunch of old Brits sniffling over some old toys and memories of a better time? Yuck! However . . . I'd bet anything that B would love the show (and thanks for the tip, I'll mention it to her). She LOVES that kind of thing. Ah ... to each his or her own!

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    1. Avoid it, Tom, unless you enjoy watching real crafts people repair things that almost all of us would throw in the trash. To see what someone with true ability can do is fascinating, even if they are old and British.

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  2. As you well know, Bob, from reading and sharing your review of my memoir, 'Daddy du jour', my childhood was not great. But, honestly, the old saying...'if it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger', has been a big part of my life and, has made me stronger. I was often jealous of other kids families but, I know all of that ugliness made me a better parent for my sons. I'll check out this show!
    b

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    1. Watching someone take an almost destroyed childhood toy, phonograph, or poorly treated oil painting and restore it to its original condition is enjoyable. There are real artists in every field.

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  3. I don't have Netflix or anything else that doesn't come from my cable company, but that show sounds like something I'd like, having loved antiques most of my life and having done a lot of repairs on them as well. In my mind, they all have stories to tell.

    As for the people who have lived lives full of abuse or neglect---I have cousins who did growing up and in early adulthood---I sometimes think of them when I see something that triggers a good memory for me, like a yellow sports car has the power to lighten my mood. How hard it must be to never know when something commonplace for others will bring them down.

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    1. Knowing how others have suffered is hard sometimes, when my experience was so positive. I hope it has given me a feeling of both gratitude and empathy when I become aware of that type of situation.

      The show is on DVD, but only for machines made for the European standard of playback.

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  4. I keep thinking about your statement that you literally have no bad memories from childhood. I enjoy your blog, but I've never heard anyone make this statement before, and I don't believe it.

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    1. You are certainly free to disagree. Of course, that doesn't change the facts.

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  5. I think that show sounds great... even if it's a bit contrived. I would love to watch something loved that has been worn, mistreated, or broken brought back to "life" by an artist. After we finish binging The Great British Baking Show, we may just check that out.

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    1. In a sense it is like any form of reality show...things aren't exactly as they appear. But the experts in repairing items are really doing what they appear to do, though not within the 43 minutes of the show!

      I think you will enjoy it. The ladies who repair old dolls, the clock expert, and the woodworking guy are amazing.

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  6. That does sound like a great show. The memory that popped up for me was about a book I had called Stories for Threes and Fours. I can still remember one of the stories. I don't have the book anymore, and I have looked high and low online for it over the years. Not a repair job, but I would get the same satisfaction from having a copy again.

    Your childhood sounds lovely...and rare, I think. Do your brothers share your same assessment? I am asking because I was always struck by how my mother and her sisters had such different memories from their childhoods.

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    1. You would enjoy it. Think of some of the older things being repaired as very much at home in your cabin. Watching those who are masters of their craft and love fixing things is enjoyable.

      My middle brother had a more conflicted relationship with our parents. He loved them deeply, but there were periods of conflicts. I doubt he would have the same recollections I do. My youngest brother? Frankly, I am not sure. My impression is things were just fine. He was 6+ younger and we moved in different circles for most of our lives.

      I don't want to imply I was never at odds with my parents. This was a time when spanking was considered desirable. I am sure we had some disagreements. But, in all major events, I just don't remember meaningful negative feelings.

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  7. Bob, what a lovely post. I completely agree with you about the importance of memories in our lives. In a very real way, the memories we have constructed is who we are (which is not to imply that we make up our memories, but rather that we selectively retrieve memories and interpret them in order to craft a story of who we are). It think this is one reason memoirs are such a popular genre right now.

    Jude

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