When I was little and I heard the expression “take a stroll down Memory Lane” I pictured a neatly manicured, tree-lined street.
The clean, even sidewalks met with groomed green grass. It was almost like a movie set. In my rendition of Memory Lane, the weather was perfectly sunny, but not too hot. It was a quiet and open road. The memories were more of an abstract idea and hung in the air like a sweet fragrance.
I was too little to understand the metaphor; I was still thinking concretely. And the first time I heard the expression, I was too young to have collected very many memories anyway. Kids live in the here and now. Except when they are wishing the days would pass more quickly until their birthday or Christmas.
Later, I began to understand what Memory Lane really is. It is the one construction project that is neverending. We are constantly adding to it, whether by choice or by chance. It is the most important road because it is the one that leads to who we are here and now.
I now know that Memory Lane is not the idyllic quaint place that the word “lane” implies. It is crowded and full of people and places, smells, sights, sounds, emotions, feelings, colors, and opinions. Thankfully, my childish sterile rendition doesn’t exist.
Depending on the exact spot, Memory Lane can be a noisy and bustling place, a dark and private place, a messy and complicated place or a warm and loving place. There are lonely and desolate stretches. We all can picture the segments where we’ve travelled alone. We’ve all gone the wrong way. From time to time we have taken the high road, and that can be a lonely stretch, too.
There are parts of Memory Lane we’d just as soon not go to, and there are other parts we wish we could go back to and stay. Just to have one more taste of Grandma’s matzo ball soup, one more giggle in slumber party sleeping bags.
Our memories are rarely constructed alone. Like the complex overlapping and twisted freeways of Los Angeles, our path is bisected and intertwined with those of family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
Memory Lane is riddled with forks in the road and intersections. Life-altering events. Births, deaths, celebrations and break-ups.
I am excited for this Sunday. There are six of us who have remained close since 1st grade. We will be collectively celebrating our 40th birthdays with a picnic on the grounds of our elementary school. We will travel deeply down Memory Lane. I am bringing a red rubber ball for four square and we are bringing stickers to trade. I want to hang from the monkey bars and peer into what was Mrs. Malone’s 3rd grade classroom.
Whenever we get together there is a lot of laughter. But more importantly, there is an understanding and a comfort with one another that comes from being together throughout our childhood. These are the women who knew me before I even knew myself.
The greatest gift they have already given me, that sacred section of Memory Lane I can go to anytime – filled with their voices, faces, and knobby knees. The windy Girl Scout Camp Out and bike rides to the beach.
It reminded me that as parents we are architects of many of our children’s memories. We have the power to help shape their paths, through our actions and traditions. Each hug, each time we stop to play a game with them, or throw a ball, or read a book. The way we react to stress, the advice we give them. These are the bricks and mortar that we contribute to help in the construction of our children’s Memory Lane.