Memories are funny and stubborn things. They can evoke all manner of emotion (such as thoughts of trying to trade my little sister for a speckled hen), serve as an inspiration (like memories of my son as a child), hold us back, play tricks on us, and even lie to us. In the past few months I have spent many an hour lost on memory lane and can attest with certainty that the above statement is true.
Most of us today, especially the over fifty crowd, longingly look backward and dream of the good old days. The good old days is that vague point in time when the sun was brighter but there were no sunburns, people drank and smoke but there were no problems with drugs of any kind, and cars were built to last.
In this scenario the memories have not lied to us as much as they have simply obscured the past with a wisp of smoke that causes selective amnesia. Yes, cars were built to last provided you worked on them every weekend and didn’t drive them on the deplorable roads or use the substandard grades of oil. Yes, alcohol and tobacco were the drug of choice, except for the morphine addict or the individual that really, really liked their coke with the little touch of cocaine that gave such a lift.
We seem to have forgotten that in 1920 the average life expectancy for an American male was forty eight years of age. That is if you were white, for everyone else subtract a couple of years. We seem to have forgotten that in the 1950s head on collisions accounted for almost one half of all traffic fatalities.
There are a multitude of areas where the past was most definitely better than the present. But there are just as many that make today much better than yesterday. It is a case of the best of times, the worst of times.
So, as I live in the present, a period in time that allows the luxury of nostalgia made manifest in outdated cars as a hobby and twisted two lane highways that we can drive because we want to, that is where I had best find happiness. Besides, even if the past was the best of times, I can’t live there, but I can visit on occasion with a cruise down legendary Route 66 behind the wheel of the old Dodge or a delightful evening of rest at the Wigwam Motel in Rialto.
Memories that inspire stand in stark contrast to those that hold us back. Quite often they are the same memory but it is our interpretation that determines if they are to be a liability or an asset.
My list of failures is a lengthy one that grows by the day. Do I use them as an excuse for not trying again or do I see them as lessons learned? Do I take the memories of those failures and use them as an anchor to keep me safely moored on the sand bar or do I use them as lessons learned for navigating the rapids?
In my world memories have evoked a wide array of emotions since the death of my mother and sister in December. Fueling this has been the on going effort to shovel through years of debris and mementos.
We are not a close clan but my little sister and I had our moments. In spite of the gulf between us, especially the past dozen years or so, I can never forgot that she took me in, dusted me off, and set me on my feet after a really bad fall. Nor can I forget the road trip adventures like trying to trade her for a speckled hen in Alabama, tossing her Cracker Jacks out the window on a hot day in Oklahoma as we motored west, or the time I tried to give up my allowance for a year if dad would leave her behind at a service station in Ohio.
Memories can be the spice of life. But like over salted food, a life lived on old memories rather than in the quest of new ones is a life that is difficult to swallow.

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