Unlike my entry for Franconia Notch, my endless sifting through the plethora of brochures and photos and papers and so on doesn't always succeed in resurrecting memories. Two cases in point:

1. I found an early-1990s letter from Hunger Services Network in Pittsburgh thanking me for the donation of 60 dozen eggs. Um. I feel relatively certain that had I transported 720 eggs in our Honda Civic 4x4 from a farm to HSN's distribution center, surely I would have remembered it! — OK, maybe not, but I ultimately figured out what to me is a more likely and reasonable explanation: I was doing paid and pro bono production editing for HSN at the same time I was the Mormon rep on the One Voice Against Racism interfaith council. My best guess is that one of the other religious leaders let it be known that someone in their congregation had all these eggs, but didn't know what to do with them, so I provided the info about HSN, thereby facilitating the transfer of eggy goodness to those in need.

2. Before roughly two weeks ago, if someone had asked me if I'd ever ridden an elephant, I'd've said no. I was therefore completely surprised to discover a later-1990s photo of me (along with several others) on the back of a small (and not terribly happy-looking) pachyderm. A little more digging produced a map of the activities and attractions at King Richard's (Renaissance) Faire in the greater Boston area — and lo, yes, there was indeed an elephant ride there. I vaguely recall the Faire itself, probably because one of my AAVSO coworkers was part of a roving madrigal singing group there, but still no recollection of how it felt to ride an elephant.

(By contrast, I do remember how it felt to ride a camel in Tunisia, especially the bone-jarring dismount, which was unpleasant enough that I will likely never repeat the experience.)

Had I been a good journal writer — that is, had I written about more than just my Internal Frame of Mind and Soul and all (a.k.a. journal as therapist / punching bag), I'd have tried to capture these kinds of experiences: the smells, the sounds, the sights, the surroundings; perhaps musings about animal rights, and so on. I have been remiss about this sort of thing for most of my writing life, I think, except possibly when attempting to write letters (or emails) to other people in the hope of entertaining them.

The entire point of keeping memorabilia, of organizing scrapbooks, is not simply to catalogue the places we've visited, the shows that we've seen, the activities we've participated in — no, the point really is to have a means of capturing the stories associated with these things. What did we learn? What was the experience like? What was the takeaway? Why was it meaningful, or funny, or otherwise worth remembering?

As I keep discovering to my mostly minor dismay, so many stories are simply lost — I guess the synapses are recycled for other, more recent memories. For example, I have come across notes and cards thanking me for kindnesses and services rendered, humorous stories told, songs sung, lessons taught, and so on. Not only do I not remember these things (even when the thanks are reasonably explicit)… I often don't remember who the people are.

My takeaway from all this is — dear readers (especially my kiddies), if you're keeping a few things to remind you of various events, jot down the salient details while they're still present in your brain. Don't wait. Nor would it hurt to keep at least a bare-bones diary of the everyday events and activities in which you're engaged now and in the future. Sifting through papers and letters to … to recover and explain the course of your life long after the fact is hard. And you will not remember all (or even a small portion) of all of the things that you believed would be "unforgettable" at the time you experienced them.