I Remember When

As we passed the Pig ’N Pancake in Astoria, Oregon we were alert, searching for signs leading to Highway 30, travelling east across the northern part of the state. Then, all of a sudden, Gaye and I said, almost in unison: “We took the kids there for breakfast.”

The seven of us sat in a big booth by the window where we could look up at the massive bridge crossing the Columbia River, where it reaches its destination in the Pacific Ocean.

It was The Disneyland Trip, only 28 years ago.

Funny, doesn’t seem that long ago.

The Pig ’N Pancake - now a chain (was it always?) - was not the only moment that provoked memory.

Winding down the Oregon Coast I recalled how we would urge the kids, “Wow! Look at that! Amazing!” But usually, they were asleep in the back of the van, reading or singing along with their Walkman. (Of course, not everyone could afford a Walkman so a family meeting was necessary to decide whose cassette tape would be played on the van stereo, in what order and for how long.)

The famous Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach was another trigger.

“Remember the kids running on this beach.” One memory sparked another - “and that other beach we camped on, Big Sur in California, where the dune buggies ran all night and we hardly got any sleep.”

Amazing what the brain stores away and what simple keys release the vault.

I forget the name of the small town in which we stopped. But I remember the park, near the centre of town, that had a mini-version of the Vietnam Memorial, inscribed with the names of the townspeople who had died in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. For a small town, the list was surprisingly long.

I wonder if on November 11th people gather there or is there another place for corporate memory. And, of the individuals who loved those whose names are inscribed, I wonder about the place to which they retreat to carefully retrieve and hold precious memories. Sacred moments.

While we were driving we received word of the death of a man, not yet 40, who was once part of the orbit of our family. The news brought not only immense sadness but, unbidden, attempts to reconstruct chronologies, clarify memories, recall episodes.

One of our daughters will wade through years of photographs to put together a photo album for his four-year-old son. We sent along an awesome kite that was one of the gifts he left us.

The pictures and gifts will play a different role for his son. For us, they take us back, viscerally, to moments, words, sounds. In years to come, as his son tries to figure out his place in life, the power of the gifts will only be realized to the extent they provoke the stories of others. Those testimonies will help him discern similarities and differences to the Dad he scarcely knew.

As a Christian, I am familiar with this movement. So many of the stories and practices that Christians carry are simply rusty relics until they gain breath when someone says, “And that reminds me …”

Many Christian stories & practices ... gain breath when someone says, “And that reminds me …”

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