When I was in primary school poetry and times tables had to be memorized, tests and assesments of memory were to be had. Every Friday there was an oral times table test for the whole class, and poetry had to be presented each term. ‘My Country’ was one poem I enjoyed memorizing. Another was Coleridge’s ‘The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner.’ Sunday School brought memory verses and nativity plays to memorize. Scouts brought a whole range of memorizing from the national anthem to knot formations.
But as I have aged it is less important to memorize things like numbers and poetry, knots or scripts (with the exception of the ubiquitous password). The things I have treasured and committed to memory without even trying are moments with people. As we approach Fathers Day in Australia I am particularly conscious of the hole my late father left when he died the age I am about to become. But, that hole is somehow whole through memory, or re-membering, the putting him back together.
He was a simple man, a coal miner who struggled in school, survived the blitz, he had his hopes and dreams, wife and children, a home. But he was also a frustrated man, an angry man, and many times his fists formed what he thought of the world and spoke directly to each one of us. And yet amidst the terror of physical threat, there were times of joy, celebration, play, holidays, excitement. Memories are what they are.
They were the best of days and the worst too, but I am glad I have my memories of dad to treasure, and ponder, to reflect on for myself. For me, memorizing moments and people are about my wholeness, my path, and I am glad to walk with them.