There are many things about my childhood I remember, but many more things I wish I could remember. When I say wish I could remember, I mean that I have images of memories, but they lack the details that give memory its color. These memories are what make our history personal to us. They give us the back story that gives our lives meaning and makes us who we are. If we fail to remember our past, not only do we risk repeating our mistakes, but we lose part of ourselves.
Most of my relatives have passed on and all I have of them now are old memories that are not as clear as they once were. I write about this now after having a discussion about old family traditions sparked, of course, by Thanksgiving. I have memories of gathering around various tables in various houses. I know my siblings and me sitting at the kid’s table in some cases, and in others we simply grabbed a TV tray and whatever seat was unclaimed.
Other memories I have involve my grandfather on my mom’s side, who had a workshop in his basement and I vaguely remember being down there with him as a child. He admonished me that I not go down there without him, and of course, I am sure I did not follow that directive to the letter. Now that basement is a storage room and though his workbench is still there as are many of his tools, they are buried under years of totes and boxes.
My uncle Harris also had a workshop in his garage in Houston where I remember making some simple wooden toys with him. I always think back to those times fondly when I get depressed on the state of families and relationships these days. People don’t seem to care about the past, nor do they think about how the things they do today will be the memories our kids will look back on tomorrow.
For the past year or two, I have been building a woodshop in my garage. I took woodshop in middle school and had fun, but as with most techies, I preferred the new toys that were hitting the market rather than making things in a woodshop. Now I wish I had kept up woodworking as I struggle with the skills necessary to actually make something out of wood. My Uncle and my grandfather both gave me tips to remember when working with wood and I employ these regularly.
As I try to learn this skill—and don’t get me wrong, I am not bad at it—it occurs to me that my grandkids might benefit from experiencing making something. Not that I am a great craftsman in need of an apprentice, far from it, but the kids might appreciate the memories some day. I can only wish that I had more time in my uncle’s shop as a child, not so I could make more projects, but so I could enjoy the memories more clearly now.
Our memories will fade with time; it’s a sad and unfortunate fact of life. Most of my memories of childhood are leaving me now and as I look back through pictures, I find myself trying to place the memory in context and struggling at it. But at least I have the memories. As I was growing up, my dad was not into woodcraft. He did draw really well and he enjoyed plastic modeling, but my sons never got to share memories with him about those. They do have memories of going bowling with Granddaddy though and I hope they keep those memories alive for years to come. Remember to keep your memories alive but also think about how the things you do today will be the memories you try to cling to tomorrow.