Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Memory is Elusive-Capture It!

Somedays, I feel a little nostalgic.  A smell, sound or glimpse of a color will transport me back to a time long ago.  We all have those types of memories-the most vivid for me is the smell of Mexican food cooking-not spicy but the earthy, corn smell-takes me back to the driveway of Nell Scruggs in Weatherford, Oklahoma.  Nell was the grandma of my next door neighbors, Tonya and Julie; we loved to walk or ride our bikes through Camelot Addition to Grandma Scruggs' house and play in her basement.  (When you get a mental picture of Nell, I want you to picture a sweet Georgia peach of a grandma with an accent that melted in your ears like warm butter when she spoke.)  Every spring, she had crabapple trees that lined her driveway and to me the beauty of those blossoms can be vividly seen in my minds eye every time I catch just the right whiff of Mexican food.  Instantly I am 8 years old and the world is fresh, clean and safe! (Julie-if there was only one tree, please don't correct me!  In my childhood memory her drive was long and there were at least four trees.)

But what about when those memories begin to fade?  Have you had it happen yet?  You hear a melody playing in your head and know it should be transporting you to a significant memory but there is nothing there.  You come up blank.  With every passing year, I seem to have more and more blank pages and there is nothing I can do about it.  Sometimes it's like I'm Sam from "Quantum Leap" and my memory seems to be a big hunk of swiss cheese.  It scares me.  There are too many things I don't want to forget.

When I was a little girl, I remember getting those five year diaries; anxiously awaiting January 1st and vowing that this would be the year I would write a line each and every day.  Needless to say, I forgot every time.  Sometimes I would get a half dozen entries in one diary...over the course of five years!  My intentions would golden but my follow through, not so much.

My Grandma, Erma Ruth (McDowell) Cassel, lived to the ripe age of 103 years, 2 months and a 7 days.  She came from a different time, one where people valued their thoughts and took the time to record them-every day!  About ten years before she passed away, she gave me the most precious gift I have ever received-boxes of journals that my Grandpa Elbert Cassel had kept.  I took the time and went through the first five years, I typed in highlights, printed them, bound them and gave them to her.  You could see the sparkle in her eye that I believe in my heart was the same sparkle that newlywed Erma had when she first married Elbert.  Can you imagine someone typing up and handing you a booklet that contained snippets that your husband had written during the first five years of your marriage?  What wonderful memories to have the opportunity to relive through the eyes of the one you dearly loved!

So today, I'm eyeing those journals again.  I haven't picked them up in several years but I'm drawn to look into the box again.  There is one that looks a bit different so I pick it up and open the cover and this is what I see:

E.E. McDowell-born in the 1870's, father of Erma Ruth!  He was my Great Grandfather!!!  Wow!  I excitedly turned the page and saw that it was a five year diary, beginning January 1, 1950.  Now old Eugene Edgar did better than I did, he managed to write every day for one full year.  Being a woman I did the thing every girl would do-I turned to the important dates in my life--my birthday, my kids birthdays, my anniversary and quickly read to see what words of wisdom might leap from the pages to enlighten me. 

The first thing I noticed as I read through my selected dates was how positive he was each and every day.  Even though he was very lonesome (I don't know dates but I'm thinking this must be shortly after my Great Grandma had passed away because on January 1, he wrote at the top of the page, "Darling, I'll never forget you, I love you so; must be I am just finding how much you were to me, dear."  Many of the days, he makes reference to being lonesome and doing the best he could to pass the time.  The other thing I noticed is every day, no matter how lonesome or how "dark the world conditions" he thanked God for what he had.

Today, I want to share with you the date I was born-December 30th.

"Not much left of the old year am glad for the new, am trustful that all shall be well for all who look to the Infinate God, He doeth all things well.  Father lead in the perfect way, with confidence, Amen."

As I read, my mind drifted back to Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradberry and one of Anna's last plays at NWACC.  It was eerie because the play spoke of books being done away with and how news had been condensed to just a few words, no real news.  It kind of scared me because all I could think about was todays society and our quick Facebook status updates, that the news blurbs we read on the internet must be real (not) and our 140 characters on Twitter.  I was all gloom and doom for a bit I was convinced that our society was doomed.  But today, as I read through my Great Grandpa's diary and saw his daily status updates, I realized that in his way he was preserving a moment in time, a moment that would one day reach me and perhaps one day reach my children and my children's children.

So all you crazy blessed readers, take a moment and review your Facebook and your Twitter with fresh eyes.  Are these little bits your legacy?  Will your children, grand children, great-grand children be proud of the person you are today or will they be ashamed?  Will they be crazy blessed to be a part of your legacy or hope the digital trail will disentigrate?  I challenge each of you to begin to save some of those status updates and/or tweets, write them in a diary or journal so someday there will be something they can hold in their hands and imagine the person you were.


  1. Dana I loved reading this so much. I follow all your posts on Facebook and they're always so inspirational. Ironically at church right now the series that we are doing is called "my story". It is about looking at your own life story and whether or not it will be one that you will be proud for your children to hear. I haven't always lived the life that I'm proud of but for the last several years my life is been completely changed by the works of God.

    As for the trees... There were several down her long drive :) Thank you for bringing a memory to my mind of my beautiful grandmother.

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I have so many fond memories of growing up in that magical neighborhood! As a matter of fact, when we bought our house here in Arkansas, sidewalks were a priority for me! Do you remember my old boot skates with the metal wheels? I completely wore them out, they are floating around at my parents farm house and the girls love to play on them. It's odd the things that stick around! Tell your Mom & Dad hello for me!