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Jewish World Review
Oct 20, 2011
/ 22 Tishrei, 5772
Hold on to treasured words, don't trust memory
Sometimes I surprise myself by coming up with an idea so good it makes me sorry I didn't think of it sooner.
Actually, in some cases, I probably did think of it sooner, but then I forgot about it until I thought of it again.
My husband and I like to joke that we never run out of things to say to each other because we can't remember a word we say. It's not as funny as it used to be.
Anyhow, back to my great idea. Wait. What was it?
It had something to do with remembering things. Not errands or appointments or grocery lists, but really important things like ... words.
We were driving home to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, four hours in bad traffic that left me hungry to do something besides watch my husband drive.
So I began to recite -- silently, lest, God forbid, I distract the driver -- the Lord's Prayer. I wasn't sure if I wanted to say "forgive us our trespasses" or "forgive us our debts," so I said both. Better safe than sorry.
That took about two minutes.
"How much farther?" I asked.
"Four hours," he said.
Next, I did the 23rd Psalm. I learned to recite it as a child on long drives with my granddad, who had a tendency to nod off behind the wheel. I'd lean up close and shout it in his ear to help him stay awake.
I looked at my husband. His eyes were still open. So again, I recited it to myself. Or I tried. Imagine my dismay when I got stuck on the second verse. The more I tried to pin it down, the more it escaped me. How could I do that? How could I forget something so beautiful, something that meant so much to me?
Then I started thinking about other words I've forgotten, other treasures I have lost.
Not everything can, or should, be trusted to memory.
I wish I had the postcards my dad wrote to me after he and my mother divorced. Words can be a life raft to a drowning child. I slept with them under my pillow until they ended up in the wash.
I wish I'd kept a copy of the speech I gave at my high school graduation. It was not a great speech. But it might help me remember who I was then.
I wish I'd saved more papers my kids wrote in school -- essays and stories and journals that would be such fun to read now.
I have a few notes they wrote to me over the years. I framed three together -- one from each child -- with a photo of how they looked back then. It's hanging in my office. Just looking at it makes me smile.
I wish I'd kept more of their writings and taken the time to write down things they said. What I realized on the road between L.A. and Vegas is that it's not too late to start.
So here's my big idea, one you probably thought of years ago. I started a file called "Words." So far, it holds a "welcome home" card from my husband, a thank-you note from my daughter and a postcard from an 85-year-old reader in Indiana that begins, "Hi, Sweetie."
I also printed several emails (one in which my daughter-in-law describes in priceless detail a picnic with her husband and their toddler). And I transcribed a few recent voice messages: my husband announcing the birth of his granddaughter; my oldest telling me about a play he's doing; and my brother over the moon about Clemson University's latest win ("I'm so happy, sister, I don't know what to do!").
I put them all in the file, along with the words to the 23rd Psalm, which I am determined to memorize -- yes, again.
What words do you want to remember? What words do you want to be remembered for?
Put them in writing.
Before you forget.
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