I feel dismayed about loss of memories. No, not personal forgetfulness, but rather by the troubling thought that our youngest generation may later in life realize that there is a serious shortage of memories in store. Pass through any Mediterranean village and you will see the elderly residents sitting together under the shade of a tree. What is the topic of animated conversation? The world today in comparison with the world of childhood memories. With more life behind than life ahead, old friends regenerate purpose and zest by digging deep into shared experiences and putting things into perspective.
Nowadays our children walk with eyes focussed on a small rectangle, arriving home to view a larger rectangle, pressing keyboards, checking scores, upgrading games. They sit in groups, but in silent concentration. A mother on a bus journey will ignore the fretful toddler desperately seeking attention and continue unabashed to interact with digital unrealities. Do you remember when infants were conducted in prams facing the parent who supplied a lively commentary on the world around?
Do you recall playing outdoors all day in summer, calling home only when hungry? Were you lucky enough to enjoy picnics in bluebell woods, noisy fun visits to cousins, perhaps pond dipping for minnows or tadpoles, or discovering crabs in rock pools? Did you gather blackberries for homemade jam and pick apples from the tree you were allowed to climb and mark the seasons with the first new potatoes, early tomatoes and sweet summer strawberries? An empty garage became a theatre for improvised drama. You built dens, went on bike rides, treasure hunts and played hide and seek. Remember making mud cakes decorated with shells, petals and berries, collecting conkers and making snowmen in winter. These were active days full of adventure at the swing park, the fair, the football pitch, the maze of lanes.
Reminiscing on bygone days, a migrant to a more fragrant life in Ontario wonders,
“Where are the kids that once played in the street
Wi’ a jorrie, a peerie, a gird wi’ a cleet?
Can they still cadge a hudge or dreep off a dyke,
Or play hunch-cuddy-hunch, kick the can and the like?”
Can you still recite the words of playground games, or the rules for rounders and non-stop cricket? Perhaps you have managed to keep in touch with some of the friends who shared your childhood adventures. A newly released film called Tag, features ten school friends who still make a special effort to preserve old bonds. As they are now scattered across great distances, coping with the pressures of careers and families, it requires dedicated planning, subterfuge, disguise, much humour and bonhomie, but it is worth the effort.
We are each in fact a depositary for dynastic memories, perhaps in a line of grace stretching back through generations or are grafted into a lineage of faith. The chain links us to those who have gone before and to those still to come. Memories are held as learning experiences forming opinions and attitudes, some positive, some sad or even shameful.
In Psalm 103, King David is confronted by his relationship with a faithful, forgiving God. “Praise the Lord O my soul and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all my sins.”
In Psalm 25, his plea is, “Remember O Lord your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good O Lord.”
God instituted festivals and feast days for the Israelites as markers in the year and sign-posts of remembrance of his care and mercies towards them. So too for us, the Communion feast and special days celebrate our continued relationship with God who has accompanied our days. He asks that we always “remember Him – before the silver cord is severed or the golden bowl is broken.” Remember your Creator. Eccl. 12.