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What is it about memories?

Posted on September 9, 2016 | Comments

It’s been a few weeks since the closing ceremony put the finishing touches on the 2016 Summer Olympics. The daily buzz of who did what is gone, television schedules are back to normal (if there is a normal), and media folks have moved on to the latest happenings. Me? Still on my desk are treasured clippings of back stories that I loved reading–my “memorabilia” if you will. One of my favorites is an article recounting the most vivid memories of six journalists covering the two-week spectacle. What struck me was that none of them mentioned any of the moments that made major headlines or landed in the record books.

Bill Plaschke offered a glimpse of the Rio media cafeteria describing long lines and few choices. “There was one saving grace,” he wrote, “contemporary pop and dance music around the cash registers transformed grumbles into smiles.” To his surprise, the lively tunes were broadcast by a sound system that “some kid apparently carted from his bedroom.” Nathan Fenno had a similar story. Even though troubles surrounded the Games, he felt beach volleyball on the Copacabana was the place where the “whole haphazard production came together to produce something unforgettable.”

So what is it that makes a memory stick? Feel good? Keep us sharing it when many go by the wayside and are long forgotten? Now I’m no expert on the subject but my guess is it has something to do with the unexpected in the midst of anticipated experiences for which we intend to have fond memories such as births, graduations, and marriages.

It’s natural to capture good times with photos to celebrate for years to come. Yet, when asked to describe these experiences, it’s often a little detail, simple moment, something humorous or a boo-boo that highlight our stories. A memorable travel tale of mine is the infamous missed photo on a Windjammer cruise when I didn’t take my camera ashore only to see a priceless sunset through the sails of the four-mast schooner. Gratefully, thirty-five years later, that picture is still etched in my mind.

Experts say the easiest memories are created with the people in our lives and best retained if reviewed shortly after they happen. Gifting others with an experience to commemorate a special occasion or for no reason are opportunities to make lasting memories. They also suggest while we cherish routines, be willing to take chances, be curious and to try something new. That’s where the surprises show up and they most often make for the best memories of all.

Originally published in the Orange County Register, Laguna Woods edition, September 8, 2016

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