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Today is a day when we look back and remember. As people go, I am blessed with a rich heritage of wonderful people and good memories. But the truth is, there are a lot of things in life I’d just as soon forget – poor choices and the repercussions that followed because of them, people who’ve hurt me or treated me rudely or unkindly, money or things dear to me that I’ve lost, tragedies and heartbreak that have affected me, the people I love, or even the world in general. Yet here I am, blogging on a day devoted to memories, a day that memorializes the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom we are so blessed with – a day that brings to mind some of the most painful episodes of history imaginable.

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Memorial Day is a day that can trigger tears and warm fuzzies, pride and patriotism, joys and regrets.

Flags - row

When I visit the cemetery, I focus on the wild violets growing in the woods around the edge of the lawn, the pretty posies put on my Grandma’s graves – peonies and lilacs, lily of the valley, wild honeysuckle and columbine – sweet signs of life and living.

Flower - Lily of the Valley

I watch the flags blowing in the breeze and am so glad I can move, and feel and see.

Flags

I do not fear death because of my faith, but I do not like to think about it just the same.

Zion 2013 Sunset shadows

If I had my choice, there would be no more deaths. I like things the way they are right now – the people and things that are a part of my life. I really don’t want to lose any more loved ones – ever.

Grave

But that is not the way of the world. Time marches on. Borders and time are ripped in two, sometimes naturally, sometimes so painfully I can hardly bear to think about it.  Loss comes a visiting whether we like it or not. For every delightful event that occurs in our lives, there is a disappointment or a period of grieving that follows to balance things out.

175 Scotland - Cambo gardensraindrops

For me, the silver lining to all of this is my writing. Whether I’m hurting or sad or just going through an awkward transition in my life, writing about it, in fiction form, with names and details changed to protect the not so innocent, is very cathartic. Writing works a certain kind of magic, in which the real and painful and close becomes fictional and muted and distant. While my characters shed tears and endure the unthinkable, solving problems and masterminding solutions to their dilemmas, I am somehow freed from my past hurts, embarrassments and sorrows.

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On this day of remembering, I am thankful for the sacrifices people have made for me, the love that surrounds me. I am thankful for memories, for reminders of the wonderful things I have experienced in my lifetime. And I am thankful that sometimes, things that are best forgotten really are.

Scotland - Celtic Cross

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “old days” this week. My bed and breakfast, the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, in St. Ansgar, Iowa, has been open for 20 years as of February 1st, which was also my 55th birthday. It’s definitely a time to think back, to remember what things were like those many years ago.

Memories are a funny thing. I learned in Childhood Psych that 90% of a child’s brain and 85% of their social skills and personality develop before they are 5 years old. Yet most of us have very few memories of anything that happened to us in this time period.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are sleeping out under the stars with my dad and my sister Becky, on the farm where we lived in Grand Meadow, Minnesota, when we were little. I can remember Marty Hedstrom, a teenager who worked for my Dad one summer, singing “Sherry Baby” to me and rescuing me from the bumblebees who were after me in the haymow of the barn where I used to play. I can remember standing next to my Great Grandma Matilda Paulson and my Grandma Victoria at First Baptist Church singing “Holy Holy Holy”. I can remember climbing on the school bus on the first day I went to school, the day my baby brother and sister were born, and the day my Grandpa Hansen died. Some of these experiences have already ended up in or certainly may one day find themselves into books I’ve written – in one form or another.

My 25 year old nephew and his pretty wife, Kayla, sang “Sherry Baby” to me this weekend at my birthday / anniversary party. What a flood of memories it brought back! Because I don’t have children of my own, my nieces and nephews are very special to me. I hope that I have made an impact on their lives as well, and that they will carry memories of me and the fun times we’ve shared at the Blue Belle Inn and our family gatherings with them long after I’m gone.

My 5, 7 and 10 year old nieces and nephews were at my party, too. The girls helped get people registered for the door prizes. The two youngest were waitress and waiter and helped clear plates and take them to the kitchen. They were very intense about collecting the dirty plates (Will you please hurry up and finish eating your food so I can take your plate?) and did their jobs well.

I will have to give them some tips next time I see them. (They had to leave early because it was past their bedtime.) Right before they left, the girls entertained us by singing our favorite song, “He Knows My Name,” while I played the piano.

My hope is that they will retain their memories of the very special night they shared with their old Aunt Sherrie at the Blue Belle Inn. Maybe one of them will blog about it one day when they’ve heard “Sherry Baby” played on the radio… er… computer.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have children, but it’s important to me that someone remembers that I’m not just Blue Belle Sherrie (the main hat I’ve worn for the past 20 years). I want someone to know and remember that I climbed Pike’s Peak when I was younger, that I learned to disco dance when I lived in Germany back in the late seventies at the height of the Saturday Night Fever era. I want someone to remember that I went to Wheaton College, and saw Michael Jackson’s Thriller concert at Mile High Stadium in Denver and spent a night at a Benedictine Monastery in Bavaria. And that I made the best Jaeger Schnitzel and Spaetzle noodles this side of the great pond.

I hope you have some sweet memories, too – perhaps something you’ve read in one of my books has evoked a recollection or brought tears to your eyes. I also wish for each of you someone who knows you and loves you enough to remember unique things about you.

Thanks for letting me be nostalgic on the occasion of my big birthday and anniversary. Andrew Lloyd Webber says it well…

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can dream of the old days
Life was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again.

And if you’re a child of the seventies like I am, I’m sure this song conjurers up the very thing it talks about…

Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine

Quiet thoughts come floating down
And settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touched them and they burst apart with sweet memories,
Sweet memories

Of holding hands and red bouquets
And twilights trimmed in purple haze
And laughing eyes and simple ways
And quiet nights and gentle days with you.

Some of my favorite memories – and ones that will almost certainly die with me, since all my friends from that era are my age or older – are of the 12 years I lived in Colorado Springs. During that time, I heard Amy Grant sing this song in concerts three or four times. From I Will Remember You…

Later on
When this fire is an ember
Later on
When the night’s not so tender
Given time
Though it’s hard to remember darlin’
I will be holding
I’ll still be holding to you
I will remember you

So many years come and gone
And yet the memory is strong
One word we never could learn
Goodbye
True love is frozen in time
I’ll be your champion and you will be mine
I will remember you

Being a writer, I’ve always thought that stories are the best way to share memories. I hope one day, you’ll read mine.

Happy Birthday to me. Cheers to 20 years at the Blue Belle Inn. And a toast to memories that live on forever in the minds of the those who love us.

(Sherrie Hansen is the author of 4 books: Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.)

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