Forty Things I Learnt Before Turning 40: Lesson Thirteen

I’ve learned the importance of creating memories. Unfortunately, when we are younger we take for granted a number of the things that bring us joy. Not that short-lived joy; that intense, in the moment but fleeting feelings of joy, fading quickly in time and memory. But those moments that you can look back on years, even decades later and the sheer thought of it, brings a flood of other images and a smile across your face, bigger than the Cheshire Cat. I’ve found that these memories are deep rooted in our minds and often attached to a combination of our senses.

I once read how purchasing a new fragrance before going on a trip somewhere for the first time, allows you to store memories that can be associated with that particular scent. Since then I have always looked forward to beginning any overseas trip by perusing duty free for the most perfect scent that will become the signature for this new destination and a constant reminder of the adventures had. I only need to glance at the bottles to be taken back to the places I’ve travelled. Or catch a waft of the scent to be transported across oceans to far off places and I’m instantly back in those moments, despite how much time has passed. Scents can conjure up both images in the mind but feelings deep inside too.

The moment that scents could trigger memories for me, goes back to when I was a youngster at my grandparents. I can see the back steps that led from the laundry down to the yard so vividly, with the reddish-brown bricks on the side closest to the ramp and the few steps beside the garden. It was here that I remember my Gran teaching me that rosemary was for remembrance. She crushed a fistful of leaves in her hand and had me smell it. From that moment on, anytime I would see a rosemary bush, I can’t help but grab a few leaves, crush them in my hand and take a sniff, being instantly transported back to those back steps with my Gran. The smell of roses has the same effect, taking me to the most glorious rose gardens that were my Grandad’s pride and joy in his retirement. These roses were so popular that he ended up having to transport them to garden beds away from the street as they would be picked by passers-by, particularly on Valentine’s Day.

The taste and smell of mangoes and passionfruit also take me back to my childhood and invokes memories of the tree house, my dad built in the mango tree in the backyard. There was a passionfruit vine that crept its way along the length of the fence and a trellis outside my older brother’s window. Many afternoons were spent in the tree house, with a bounty of passionfruit, picked straight from the vine. These were the yellow skinned variety, a lot sweeter, and my brother and neighbourhood friends would bite a hole into the fruit, spitting the hard skin into the vacant allotment beside our house and suck the passionfruit seeds out before discarding the emptied shell of the fruit over the fence. Our Nan used to make a passionfruit syrup, which she’d bottle up and share with the family. Even after I’d grown up and moved away, whenever I’d visit home there’d be a bottle to take back with me.

I find the cliché of songs being the soundtrack to our lives to be completely accurate. There are moments of my life that I can relate completely to a particular song or album. I only have to hear the opening bars to Carole King’s ‘I Feel The Earth Move’ from her Tapestry album and I’m transported to my childhood home. Mum would play this record when she was cleaning. As soon as you heard that song, if you weren’t out the door quick enough, you’d certainly be given a job to do. Songs from musicals such as The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and the Wizard of Oz, take me to the loungeroom of my Grandparents, snuggled up on the couch with either of them, a cup of hot cocoa (made on the stove) with everyone singing along. J-Lo’s ‘Waiting For Tonight’ and Kylie Minogue’s ‘On A Night Like This,’ will always remind me of the infamous Y2K New Years Eve and a street party in Rockhampton during my university days. Kylie’s ‘Spinning Around’ transports me to a tiny bar in Tokyo, where I tried to recreate her video clip choreography on the bar. There’s certain songs that will instantly remind me of my high school days, working at the grocery store during university, road trips, adventures in new cities, the list is endless.

Today, more so than ever, we have a pocketful of memories, thousands of photos snapped on our phones, but there’s nothing like flicking through a photo album or a slideshow, reminiscing about times from long ago with the loved ones you shared moments with or listening to their stories of adventures had. In a day and age where we ‘capture’ every moment on our phones, it’s just as meaningful taking a picture memory, capturing a moment with all our senses. Brene Brown explains the idea of a picture memory so well in her book, Daring Greatly. She describes a day spent with her daughter Ellen and remembers a moment where she catches her, sitting silently, eyes closed, a quiet smile on her face. When Brene asks Ellen if she’s ok, she responds by saying she’s fine and that she’s taking a picture memory, which she explains is “a picture I take in my mind when I’m really, really happy. I close my eyes and take a picture, so when I’m feeling sad or scared or lonely, I can look at my picture memories.”

Taylor Swift sings on ‘New Year’s Day,’ “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you,” and I couldn’t agree more. Our memories are what keep us going during the bad times, bring us together during the good times. In the end, it’s better to invest in experiences, not things; so that you have stories to tell, not things to show. So I’ve learned to treasure moments, big and small, practicing gratitude each night before I go to bed, in an effort to imprint those memories in my mind for evermore.



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