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memoryformomOn one of my birthdays in elementary school, all my friends came home with my after school for my party. We couldn't get in the front door. The whole house was filled with string, winding around everything. Each kid was handed a popsicle stick with their name on it, and each stick was tied to one end of a string. We had to wind up the string, crawling under furniture, looping it through the rungs of a chair, going from room to room. It took an hour for us to untangle the house. At the end of the string, each kid found their own bag of treats.

My mom always did fantastic things for us kids. We had amazing birthday parties, challenging summer activities, and the freedom to learn and explore. My mom made all these wonderful memories possible, and now she's starting to lose them.

Mom is seventy-two, in good shape, and very active. She enjoys working outside and playing with her grandson. but, like many people her age, she's starting to lose some of her recall, and it really bothers her. In March, I took a trip down to her house, and I figured I could help her with that problem. I wrote a bunch of letters to my mom, reminding her of the best moments I could recall from my childhood.

  1. I thought about my childhood in phases--toddler, pre-school, Kindegarten through 3rd grade, 4th through 6th, 7th through 9th. I stopped at 9th grade because that's when all the memories I could think of were complex and tied up with conflicting emotions.
  2. For each phase, I listed the most memorable moments. This takes some time and concentration, but once you start, it comes easily. The trick is to not force your memory. Latch on to one clear image and rebuild it with as much detail as you can. Then, forget about that moment and move onto something else. Come back to that memory after your brain has had some time to cook up connections and then try to bridge that one memory into a couple more. I listed them all out on a sheet of paper.
  3. I culled my list. I was looking for things that evoked strong, loving emotions; moments from my childhood when I felt that the world was complete, and she was the center of my universe. These weren't hard to find. I also tried to find memories that spanned all the different roles she played in the household (protector, nurturer, provider, educator), and memories that demonstrated all the things I learned by her example.
  4. I wrote a letter briefly describing that event. I tried to make each one fit on a small page--that kept the scope manageable. I also tried to remember to thank her for specific things. I'm certain I never thanked her enough when I was growing up, and I definitely never thanked her for the right things.
  5. I hid the letters around her house in places where I knew she would find them.

She really enjoyed those memories, so I decided to write down some more and send them for Mother's day. If you're looking for something thoughtful to do that she'll love, I recommend it. Even if your mom is not having any memory problems of her own, I bet she'll enjoy your fondest memories of her written down.