Have you ever had a memory sneak up on you and take you by surprise? Did you notice if it’s a sad or bad memory that you tend to soak in it?
But when a good memory catches you off guard, do you roll around in it as well? Do you revel in it, throw your head back and laugh, and recall how truly marvelous that moment was?
I was watching football with my dad the other day and when the defense ran off the field, the coach began that completely nonsensical ritual (to me, anyway) of patting each grown man on the butt as he went by.
As I wondered, probably for at least the 100th time why they do that, a memory dropped right into my mind, clear and bright and full of life, and I howled with laughter.
My dad looked at me like I was crazy. He didn’t see anything on the field that would warrant that response.
That was when I shared this memory with him, and before you knew it, we were telling other stories about my mom and we laughed so hard that tears were streaming down our faces.
When I was younger and I returned home from the Army, and patched up an old argument with my mom, we returned to our prior relationship but elevated it to another level, full of love and great times spent together. We became more like best friends or sisters, and we acted more like that than mothers and daughters typically behave together.
We held hands often when we went places. We hugged and kissed each other, and we gave each other great sometimes outrageous compliments. We got into our fair share of trouble, even getting thrown out of a few stores and other businesses for laughing too loudly or being a little rowdy while having extreme fun.
Well, we grew so close that when I decided to go to college and talked to her about it, I found out she had been thinking about going back to get that degree that she was working on but never finished when I was a teenager.
At that time, not as many people as now went to college “later” in life. It was a kind of daunting proposition, especially for her. But we decided we would go together and joked about how we would “graduate or die trying.”
We both made many friends and had a wonderful time at school. We were a little more studious and serious because we were both paying our own way and that seemed to make the classes and the time more valuable.
I had a beautiful male friend at school who would occasionally sneak up on me in a hallway and pinch me on the butt. He loved to see my shocked face when I first turned to see who it was and then we would just dissolve into laughter when I realized it was him. (Remember when you were young and carefree and did silly things like that?)
Well, one day my mom and I were walking down a hallway in the student union when I saw him standing in a line up ahead. She had never understood his pinching me, but her eyes lit up when I pointed him out and mischievously said, “Watch this.”
I walked right up behind him, grabbed one of his cheeks in my hand and gave it a good squeeze as payback for all those pinches. I don’t know if you can imagine how mortified I was when he turned around in shock and I saw something that shocked me even more: It wasn’t him!
I could hear my mom’s laughter echoing in that hallway as I stammered out some excuse and backed away, more embarrassed than I ever remembered being. I ran down the hallway with her at my heels and when we got a respectable distance from that young man, we laughed ourselves sick. I mean we were bent over, sobbing and squealing and having the best laugh ever.
This memory was what came to me in my dad’s living room during that typical Sunday football game. And the minute I got to the grabbing part in the retelling of it, my father just burst into laughter and heavy tears. We carried on about it for probably a half-hour and those two now-intertwined memories are now making me smile widely.
Today is my mom’s birthday, and although she is no longer with me (I have been a Motherless Daughter for nearly four years), I am remembering her fondly. I am choosing to go forward and focus on remembering more good times.
When you lose someone really close to you, especially where the love was deep and wide and profound, you tend at first to reflect on the bad things – things you wish you had or hadn’t said, or did, things that went wrong. But as time goes by, those things fade and what comes to you is much sweeter.
I encourage you to reach out for the good and revel in it.