stacking memories

stacking memories

Last summer I preordered a book set to release in October.

I kept stumbling upon advance reviews that were mixed.

I canceled my order.

Then I remembered my resolve to resist being easily swayed by public opinion as it doesn’t necessarily make it mine.

I reordered the book for this reason and because I knew a bit of fantasy in my life was welcome.

Autumn arrived as did a book porch drop and upon pulling back the dust jacket, fanning the pages, the attention to detail, inside and out was impressive.

As many readers during the pandemic have struggled to stay focused on the page, I have found myself in this camp as well. I would read a few chapters, grateful for the brevity of each one, a small respite from weighty thoughts circling my mind.

Last week, I closed the last page, not before a few audible sniffs.

I reopened the book to find a blank page at the end and did something I never have done before.

I wrote the date and a long paragraph about why this book was important to me at that very moment as well as noting a few pages with sentences I wanted to remember. 

This book had been stuffed in the back pocket of my purse, kept me company while waiting in a car when a virus prohibited entering beyond the sliding doors. It had been packed in a suitcase, barely touched during my father’s final days. A book, present even when closed tightly.

A book can invite a reader into a journey. This book led me to other places when life was inescapable.  But I dare say I etched a path upon the pages of this book as well. 

They say books find us at the right time. In the past, I have been remiss about documenting how a book found its way into my hands or its lasting impression. This was my attempt to stack memories about a reading experience and how it intersected with my surrounding circumstances.

Last week I also uncovered a print from the early days of marriage. Instinctively, I turned the pastel frame over to see a yellowing taped card bearing words of “farewell for now” and deep affection from one of our first friends as newlyweds. In an instant, I was 24 again and saturated with reflections and stories. 

This year has been steeped with difficult and anticipated memories blotted out by various speeds.

There is a summer photo of my family I intend to frame. It’s a selfie in all it’s non-professional glory.  Yet a glance of this captured moment will be a reminder of togetherness, fun, and the beauty of the outdoors. It will also be a hushed nod to all that we didn’t know in the months ahead.

No one ever knows what a given day will contain but 2020 has heightened this awareness. 

I am looking for any opportunity to embrace joy by stacking memories. 

Will you join me?

Frame a silly photo.

Leave a Sharpie note inside a board game telling the tale of an epic game.

Write in the margin of your books or on the last page.

On the back of that one million piece puzzle box indelibly record the names of the conquerors.

Name a favorite beverage or concoction to evoke the positive aspects of this past season. 

Start a new tradition or embrace an old one. 

Blow bubbles on New Year’s Eve.

Create an anti-despair playlist. 

Don’t wait until the new year to be a caretaker of your memories because even with all the hope we can spare, the stroke of midnight on a new year is not a magic eraser. 

Start stacking today. 

May we seek not to erase the excruciating parts of this year but rather allow all the good patches of life to come alongside the rough and raw terrain, bringing comfort and hope for the future.
If we have been given a future, we can be grateful for each added memory.

8 thoughts on “stacking memories

  1. Helen, once again your writing draws me and then sends me out to respond with a fresh perspective to the world around me. I like the line, ’embrace joy by stacking memories”. Stacking memories helps me to remember God’s character and faithfulness in my life and this moves me forward in a way that is hopefully more kind and generous. Thank you for sharing these posts with us.
    Happy Memory Stacking!
    take care,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Helen- I knew you back at Imago where our kids were in youth group together. We’ve been gone for a couple of years, but are back now. Your writing is beautiful, and I’m planning to stack the memories. Thank you for your ideas on how to do that. Also, I wanted to let you know how much your words around your dad’s loss have moved me. I lost both of my parents in the space of two years. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I know the ache of the first holiday season. I’m pausing to pray for you right now. You are on my mind and heart. Much love to you, Robin

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post so much, Helen! What great ideas. Gratitude really is so much more than making lists, but taking the time to really acknowledge and mark those things that are life-giving and joyful. Savoring.

    It’s the shortest day of the year (and the longest night). I hope you are tucked in warm and dry and can find much to give thanks for as another season ends and we enter into the cold, brightening Winter days! I am doing a lot of reflecting and thinking today and enjoying this last of the dark, dark days before the turn.

    Love to you!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. OH Robin,
    You can’t know how much it meant to see your name today!
    I had been searching for you (I promise, not stalking) on Instagram as I have missed seeing you guys in the balcony area.
    I am so glad to know you are back as much as that is possible right now. I am so sorry for the deep loss it has surely been
    to lose your parents and know that the grief continues.
    Bless you and your family during this holiday season and I do hope to see
    you among the balcony dwellers again!


  5. Tonia,
    I love thinking of you curled up with a good book before your
    wonderful woodstove and soaking in the light each day as it grows.
    I am so grateful for the turn too, we need it!
    Much love to you and your family, I think of you all so often!

    Love and cheers,



  6. I love the idea of writing in the back of a book what it has meant to me — one of those practices I wish I had started earlier but can start now.
    A small group of us are working our way through The Artist’s Way and your post is a bit of “synchronicity” (in the words of the book) in confirming some ways to be present and open and also to remember.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Judy,
    I completely agree with all the many ways I wish I had documented life beyond a journal but yes, we can start now. I thought about revisiting The Artist’s Way last year. I would love to hear about how you all are honoring the artist dates. It must be more of a challenge right now. But maybe it is easier to narrow the options. I always found too many ideas caused me to be paralyzed 😳
    Bless you this season!


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