Memories, some pleasant, some not so pleasant, do have a way of springing up on you when you least expect it or when something triggers it.
I attended The St Michael School graduation last week and those who spoke mentioned the word ‘memories’ several times. I suspect that at every graduation the most oft repeated word is memories.
The pleasant memories will leave one with a nice, happy, joyful, feeling-good sensation while the unpleasant ones may leave one feeling sad, bitter and resentful.
Memories are triggered primarily through one or more of the five senses – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Coming into contact with something via any of these senses or a combination of them can send a person’s mind wandering into historical occurrences and experiences.
Towards the end of May, I had the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia to the holy city of Mecca. To get there I had to transit in London, England. From Gatwick, I took the train for about an hour’s ride to get to my cousin’s place in North London. The sights, sounds and smell on that train had my memory racing back 35 years when I first visited London. I had visited London several times since that first time but having the hour to sit on the train this time around seemed to have caused many memories to come flooding back.
It would be the summer of 1984 that I had first visited the city of London. I was going for a wedding. I recalled that months before I had planned for the trip, worked during school holidays and saved money for the ticket. In those teenage years, London was a place to visit with plenty of history and exciting things to do. Barbados’ official airline at that time was Caribbean International Airways, so my ticket was bought from that airline. I recalled my excitement of spending summer in the UK and a possible visit to Paris.
Memories of summer school holidays seem to be recalled more vividly by many persons. I guess as students we all eagerly looked forward to the long breaks from the classrooms. Those who can afford it will travel during those months while others may seek out vacation jobs, go to the beach or do whatever makes him or her happy.
The summer of 1984 in London and the trip to Paris via a hovercraft, which I was able to accomplish, is one of my most memorable summers. Pictures help capture those moments and help rekindle the memories. In those times, there weren’t any smartphones where I could capture thousands of pictures and then keep the ones really worth keeping; I was confined to my small camera which had a film reel. I had to take a limited number of pictures at a time, hope for the best, and take the reel to get processed. I recall that the famous Boots Pharmacy found all over London was the place to go to get pictures processed at affordable prices. I would leave the reel there and come back at the scheduled time to pick up with eager anticipation to look at the pictures that were taken.
Today, advances in technology have wiped away all of that. My children are content to snap away on their smartphones, post and share instantaneously and store their memories on the devices or other storage platforms. For me, I have to go back to my old dusty albums when I feel nostalgic. Although, I am aware that there is technology that can transfer all of those old photos into the digital realm.
The other way memories are stored is by keeping diaries. In my younger years it was usually females who kept diaries. Males, I don’t think, were keen on such or thought it manly. In my older years, now I see the importance of recording some of those important events in one’s life journeys. I had kept a daily log of another summer trip I made in my very young years to New York City with my mother and brother in 1978. Not sure where I can find those notes now. But such importance is not given in the present to such journals but they can be valuable in much later years. In fact, diaries over the years have made several persons famous or infamous depending on the nature of the entries.
The Diary of Anne Frank is one such very famous diary. The Diary of a Young Girl, also known as The Diary of Anne Frank, is described as a book of the writings from the Dutch diary kept by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was apprehended in 1944, and Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. The diary was retrieved by Miep Gies, who gave it to Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the family’s only known survivor, just after the war was over. The diary has since been published in more than 60 languages.
Several well-known books, biographies and other articles were possible through the diaries of people who saw the value of writing down their daily activities, emotions, experiences and other important and unimportant occurrences. I acknowledge that many of today’s diaries take the form of posts on Facebook or Instagram or whatever other platform is trending. And sometimes we can document and post way too much private and personal information that the public can now access and share too. So one has to be careful what one chooses to put out in the public domain. Of course, diaries are usually intended to be personal and private writings and so every care must be taken that unscrupulous person or persons don’t get access.
Pictures, diaries, writings and now posts on social media platforms all help in storing our memories, memorable events and experiences in life. As we get older, it seems that we crave to review those snapshots from our past stored in our memories. It is as though we want to relive those pleasant moments in our past life. If the memories are painful, then we usually want to avoid, ignore or pretend they never existed.
Whatever the memory, know that our brain will store them and retrieve them, sometimes without warning.
“The biggest thing in today’s sorrow is the memory of yesterday’s joy.” Khalil Gibran
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI and a Childhood Obesity Prevention Champion. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)