At this age, I have developed many bad habits. I shamefully subscribe to the theory of food discovery that dictates I eat one piece of pizza to find out if it’s good, and then six more pieces to verify. At night, I check my phone before I go to sleep. But I check it all day, too, and then again when I’m thinking about going to sleep, before checking again when I’ve decided that indeed, yes, I will now go to sleep. Then again when I try to go to sleep, and likely again when I’ve gone to bed but can’t fall asleep. My circadian rhythm sounds like third grade band practice.
Last night, when indulging in this last minute phone checking, I saw a little meme on Twitter, perhaps Instagram. These two mediums are useful for different things, but both have become a depository for the sorts of motivational posters that we used to have to visit the mall kiosk to find. Hang In There (kitten with paw outstretched), these sorts of things. Most of these memes are well intentioned. The one I saw last night said, calmly, Collect Memories, Not Things. The message was printed over the calm waters of a lake with a pier stretching out into it. It had a lot of likes, or thumbs up, or smiley faces next to it. The people were encouraged.
Because that’s right, we should collect memories, not things. I have some things in the back seat of my car right now. They’re just things, these new skis of mine that I bought because it was a Tuesday, and they are in my trunk next to the boot things I bought and the pole things, too. I’ve collected these things, a vast array of them in fact, and they are in my car now hoping for the promised Tuesday snow.
I have some things in my other car today. Fishing things. A few fly rods, glittery gold and graphite models, beautiful examples of the artistic expression that is fly fishing. I love them dearly, these things. In fact, in my collection of other things I would place these particular things near the very top. They are among my most important things, and they’re in my fishing truck just waiting for me to use them. Last night when I was cleaning out the back of that truck, I thought to myself, these are some fine things.
One thing I bought last summer is too big to keep in a car, or inside the house. It’s in my garage, and it’s black and shiny and I slapped an UFF DA sticker on it to honor my grandmother. I did that because they didn’t have any stickers that said “sleep with your socks off so your feet can breathe”, and who could fit a sticker of that size on a Kawasaki jet ski? This thing is in my garage, on a nice little rack that I bought for it. It just sits there now, being a thing, looking at me every day while I look at it. It’s there, ready, waiting for the time that’s coming soon when I might drive that thing to the lake, and fire it up.
Collect Memories, Not Things, the image said. The image supposes that the memories we wish to collect are right in front of us, all around us. The memory of a mall visit on a Saturday is indeed something you can collect, but only if you’re strange and something is wrong with you, or if the visit is memorable for some bad reason, like they were out of Cinnabons. That scenery of the pier jutting into the lake, it seems so calm, so normal, so every day. But it’s not, and that’s why it’s a memory. It’s not nothing, it’s something. And someone had to work very hard to buy that pier so that that someone’s family could swim from it, dive from it, lounge on it.
My skis have given me access to memories that I could not have otherwise made. I might have been able to ride the ski lift to the top of the hill with my son, but what would we do when we got there if we hadn’t first collected the things that we strap to our feet? And what of those fishing pictures in my office, the ones with my children grinning ear to ear, holding small trout up for the camera to see? How would we have made that journey if not for the waders and the boots and the packs and the flies and those glistening Orvis rods and reels? How could I remember the nights last summer when I cruised over the waves to meet friends on their piers if I didn’t have that water rocket with the UFF DA sticker?
It’s disingenuous to suggest that things aren’t important. Usually, we must collect the things that get us to the place where we can then collect the memories. A lake house is among the most precious things, and anyone who already owns one will gladly tell you just how easy it is to collect memories once you’ve collected the house.