It began as the traditional Christmas Eve drive home, but it deviated from our typical experience. We expected the kids to fall asleep and leave us with a bit of quiet adult-time on the drive home. You need that after eight hours of craziness. They refused to sleep this time. I guess they’re getting too old for that.
Instead, we spent the entire time reminiscing about quirky things the kids used to do when they were younger. My younger son used to say “six-and-a-hundred” instead of six-hundred. My older son used to obsess over an interstate highway, so much so that we had to take long drives and traverse significant distances.
The lack of quiet time turned out to be a good thing. We had a great time on that drive home. If I had to drum up one complaint, it would be this.
We forgot a lot of the funny, quirky and interesting stories. There were gaps in others and a good share of tainted memories due to the passage of time. These memory gaps happen all the time. If you’re lucky, someone else recalls the pieces you forget; the rest of the missing elements then cascade their way back into your memory.
The frustration of those pesky holes in our collective memory revealed an upside. It spurred the beginnings of a wonderful writing exercise.
Imagine you had a place where you collected all those interesting stories. Whenever the nostalgic mood strikes, you pull up your list and kick off the conversation.
“Hey, remember when…”
The Nostalgia Project
Now is an excellent time to collect all those interesting tidbits that accumulated over the past year. Record them in a digital file or in a notebook you know you won’t lose. Don’t worry if your mind draws a blank. There are several tricks you can use to rekindle those memories.
If you journal every day, then you’ve got a great head start. Begin the process by going through all your journals and picking out the stories that resonate with you. If you haven’t been journaling, now is a good time to start. Read this story to learn more. It won’t help you this year, but it will help you going forward.
Search through your profile pages on your active social media accounts. You’ll no doubt see pictures, posts and videos that will trigger the recovery of a forgotten memory.
“Oh yeah, I totally forgot about that.”
There wasn’t anything worthy in my email folders. If there was something I felt compelled to share, text was my medium of choice. Old text messages yielded several good stories worthy of recording.
I’ll be honest; several text conversations seemed foreign to me as if someone else had stolen my phone and conversed with friends and family on my behalf. I’m going to take a leap and assume that these conversations are not worth remembering.
There were over a thousand pictures on my phone. Only a handful made it to a social media profile. There were a bunch from a family vacation that prompted the recall of funny events during that trip.
The Secret Drawer
This technique may not work for you, but I have this habit of saving mementos from fun experiences. I don’t do anything with them other than throwing them into my nightstand drawer. I’ve been doing it for years and have accumulated a lot of crap. A small human could get lost in there.
I pulled out a pile of junk and found a ticket from a museum I had visited with my younger son. It reminded me of the exhibit he refused to go on until I convinced him to give it a shot. Surprise. Surprise. He ended up liking it and did it again several more times.
Write Your Narratives
Open a fresh document and title it Memories, 2018. Write up your stories succinctly but with enough information to capture the emotion of the experience. Describe it as a scene rather than a summary of events.
“Timmy cried when we urged him onto the rollercoaster, but he left the ride laughing and begging us for another turn.”
“Sarah laughed uncontrollably whenever Morgan said the word “nine,” like it was spelled “nyyyyyne.”
Two Powerful But Underestimated Words
Wherever possible add the words Remember when to the beginning of each narrative. These two words automatically trigger a nostalgic feeling in the listener or reader. Most of us like to reminisce. We romanticize the past. The words remember when signal us that a nostalgic (good feeling) story is on the way.
Cut The Junk
Read over your document. Some of your accounts won’t seem that interesting. At least a third of the ones I’ve recorded felt boring or too generic to stand out in my mind. I deleted the boring ones. They cluttered the finished product and made it less appealing.
There were a few generic or repetitive items. Examples of this might be phases of interest or habits we go through in our lives. Kids go through acute phases of various obsessions. Hey, I guess adults do too.
I dealt with these by combining them into a single narrative.
“Remember when Kim went through a phase of insisting on eating mustard with everything.”
“Remember when I went through a three-month obsession of using sound therapy to deal with a bout of insomnia. I had forgotten about the therapy a month after our vacation where my insomnia had corrected itself.”
The Final Stage
In a week or so, I’ll go back and read my edited document. It’ll be a final pass before I lock it in my proverbial vault. To avoid the hassle and effort from this year’s exercise, I’m going to start my 2019 nostalgia document at the end of January and update it each month.