Of Senses and Memories

Posted by on Oct 18, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | 7 comments

This morning I am going to a Christian school in Asheville to speak to their students (Grades 1-12) about writing. I am very excited. The lower grades will hear my presentation about my path as an author interwoven with educational information about the writing process. The older students though, are going to be hearing about senses. They may even be using their senses to do some writing of their own.

Why did God give us senses? Well, of course it was so that we can taste our food, smell the flower, know when things hurt, see where we are going, and communicate through speech. Simple.

But, there is more to it than that. I believe one of the most important reasons is so we can create and recall memories.

Let me explain.

This morning I woke up with my Grandpa McKnight on my mind. It might be because the Pastor of the church I’ll be visiting today used to by my Grandpa’s pastor. It also might be because I’m going to speak on the senses and I’ve been reminded of him several times this week through my senses.

We had pot pie this week. Every time I eat pot pie, I remember my Grandpa. It starts with the sight of the steaming pan with that flaky brown crust on top. Then the smell smacks me in the face and I’m right back in Grandpa’s kitchen with him. He liked making pot pies to put in the freezer for some evening when he had no idea what to fix for him and Grandma to eat.

But, the first thing that set me off this week was ironing some of my husband’s shirts. Now, I know they are permanent press, but unfortunately our dryer doesn’t always get them just how we want them. Besides, I enjoy ironing. Not only does it give me great satisfaction to see the end result, it employs my senses.

When I iron I love the feel of the smooth cloth under my hand. I love the warmth that radiates up from the material. I have random memories pop into my head when the smell of the warm cloth reaches my nose. Memories of my mother ironing all of those cotton dresses and shirts, all damp from being sprayed, rolled, and tucked in the laundry basket to wait their turn. And, memories of my Grandpa McKnight.

When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I would go visit my grandparents in Georgia. I would travel down, spend a week and help Grandpa as much as I could. Grandma was an invalid and unable to leave her room very often. Even with the help of his daughters it was a heavy load for Grandpa. I would iron some shirts and his huge handkerchiefs. I would cook some food ahead and we would put it in the freezer. Grandpa would tell me stories. Repeatedly.

He would start with stories about his childhood. Then he would go on to his teenage years and the first jobs he worked. He would tell me about meeting Grandma, getting married, raising a family. He was an awesome story teller. Then I would go home.

When I returned he would tell them all again.  After the second or third time through the Conservative Baptist Convention in Denver story, I realized something. He wanted someone to remember these stories. He didn’t want them to die with him. So, the next time, when I arrived I pulled out the cassette tapes I’d brought and stuck one in his tape recorder. “Grandpa, I want you to start at the beginning again. I want to tape it all.”

As I cooked chicken pot pies he talked about how much he regretted not appreciating his step-dad more and about the impact his Sunday School teacher had on his life and ministry. As we sat in their living room he spoke of the depression and sleeping by the stove in the kitchen because all of the bedrooms were full of other family members needing a place to stay. And, as I ironed he once again told me about the church convention in Denver. The one where the votes were so close they finally had to ask people to refrain from going to the restroom until all of the voting was over!

And that time, when I left I took a treasure with me. A treasure for my Grandpa. His stories were safe. A treasure for me. I can pop a tape in and hear my Grandpa. A treasure for the entire family, since my cousin Michael has transcribed all of the tapes onto the computer and put them on CD’s for us.

How about your memories? Are you using your senses to their full potential? Why don’t you write down the memories that pop into your head today? If you don’t write, just tape them. Or better yet, sit down with a child or young person and tell them the story. Repeatedly!


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. carol daugherty

    Love this. your listeners will learn a lot about writing from your prompting ideas about senses. I love to write too, but it always gets put on the back burner. too bad . I’m happy to hear of your opportunites and successes!

  2. Mary Brawner

    Yesterday there was a gentleman here at the house. Through general conversation we learned he was a member of the Armed Forces, in Germany, in the 1950’s. He met a pretty German girl, fell in love, married her and brought her home to the USA. He told stories of when her father was in the German army.
    They lived history. They are living libraries. I asked him, “Have you written down your stories? Are they recorded somewhere? He told me, “No.” Please write your stories. Please encourage the stories to be told.
    As Miriam said, “Collect the memories. Don’t let them die with our loved ones.”
    You rock, Miriam.

  3. Sherry Boykin

    Miriam, this is nothing short of inspiring; thank you! it made me think of my Grandpa who lives vividly in my memory. I never had the foresight to tape him, but I do tell his stories constantly.

    • Double Cousins

      Thanks, Sherry. I wouldn’t have had the foresight either but after Grandpa told me the same stories over and over and over my slow brain picked up on it. 🙂 I wish I had more stories from my Grandmas. And my step-grandpa. I am becoming pretty passionate about this topic. It is so important.

  4. Judi Meadows aka Danie Marie

    Thanks for sharing your story Miriam, it reminded me of the tapes I have of my grandma sharing her stories. I’m sure you’ll ignite the senses in the youth you speak to. 🙂

    Blessings ~ Danie