It’s been two years since my mom passed away. You would think by now, I would have my stuff together. I mean, two years seems like enough time to work through things, right? Nope. Last week, my husband and I went to Disney. After a few hours of acting like a 12-year-old at the happiest place on earth, I found myself blubbering instantly. As we walked past a particular store, I suddenly remembered the last time I was at that park was with my mom. The memories flooded my mind, like a dam that just broke. You see, she wasn’t well. And with her illness, she spent many days, even weeks, in bed. But she longed to spend time together as a family and get out of the house.
We started the evening with a buffet dinner at Hollywood Studios. Not because the food was fantastic; in fact, it was much like your elementary school cafeteria. But we chose that location because my mom was a feisty, little, semi-Italian. I say “semi-Italian” because it was part of her heritage, but she didn’t have the typical traits us hand-flailing Italians have.
For instance, my mom hated garlic. What kind of Italian hates garlic? Additionally, she was a VERY picky eater. In fact, there were only four restaurants in Orlando in which we could dine, and Mom consistently channeled Meg Ryan’s character from When Harry Met Sally when ordering food.
“I don’t want a salad, I just want tomatoes. If they aren’t cherry tomatoes, I want them sliced – but not round slices, I want them in quarters…” It was ALWAYS an adventure. After dinner, Mom had enough energy left for one ride. So we headed to Toy Story Land and enjoyed a little shooting gallery action on Toy Story Mania. I hope I never forget the sound of my mom snort-laughing as we blasted through that carnival-themed 4-D arcade.
Memories are funny things, and more complex than you realize. According to new studies by several researchers, this thought process from HowStuffWorks.com brings to light some interesting information: “What seems to be a single memory is actually a complex construction. If you think of an object – say, a pen – your brain retrieves the object’s name, its shape, its function, the sound when it scratches across the page. Each part of the memory of what a ‘pen’ is comes from a different region of the brain. The entire image of a ‘pen’ is actively reconstructed by the brain from many different areas. Neurologists are only beginning to understand how the parts are reassembled into a coherent whole.”
Pretty wild, huh? But it makes sense. It’s because we are such complex human beings that a powerful memory can be triggered by the smell of cookies, the sound of a laugh, or just walking by a familiar place. These were all precious reminders of who my mom was. And even though it’s been two years, there are so many times it feels so fresh. Simple things I took for granted are now things I long for. It’s the “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone” philosophy.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
It’s a new year. I encourage you to remember the past to help make the most of your present. Challenge your fears and be willing to learn something new every day. And most importantly, make the most of the time you are given.
Live well, my friends.