This little ditty is part of the brilliant Shenee Howard’s 835 Story Tour. I discovered Shenee one sleepless night and was hooked by her punchy words and contagious enthusiasm. I raised my hand via email and joined the tour. Enjoy!
I’m three year old. I’m on a beach in Cuba with my grandfather. I’m watching as relatives scramble to stop the bleeding in my grandfather’s foot. He’d stepped on a splinter, a giant splinter. I smell ocean and baby oil (yes, baby oil not suntan lotion, it was the ’80s). I’m worried but not much because he’s laughing. I can see his grin. He makes everything better.
I’m eighteen; prom is just around the corner. My best girlfriends and I take to the mall to find our perfect gowns. I point out this heavenly navy number to my friend who resembles Charlize Theron. She oohs and ahhs and snatches it from the rack. I’m crushed but smile. I run to my other friend and bare my hurt and low self-esteem. She gives me a good talking in her no nonsense way and pushes me and the dress into a dressing room. It’s not the right neckline for Charlize but puuuuuuuurfect for me. I love my dress so much I name her Mei-Ling.
I’m thirty three. I’m unpacking boxes. Sunlight is streaming into a bare living room. My daughters are exploring their new home and the place abounds with childish laughter. They begin to play hide-and-seek and my eyes well up. We’re no longer in the place with all their favorite hiding spots. That place is no longer home. My tears are sad but happy because there are new favorite spots to be discovered.
I remember moments like these with searing clarity. Not because they made such an impact on me but because I’ve told the story of these memories more times than I can remember. I like to think these memories become more themselves with each retelling. They grow into their own skin, deeper into their purpose. The line is blurry about where memory and story merge. But really, it doesn’t matter.
Memories need storytellers; it’s how they survive. And we need them. Memories and stories are the lessons of our lives. We tell the stories we want and need to remember. Storytelling allows the memories to engrave themselves onto our hearts for safekeeping.
Memories and stories of our past not only offer us valuable lessons but they help dig our roots deeper. Deep roots, a sense of history provide steady footing to face the world. The more secure you can be in where you’ve been, the higher you can hold your head as you face the future.
Here’s a secret. I turned 30 this year. That 3rd memory up top is a story I tell myself. It hasn’t happened, yet. I believe it will. I’m a storyteller so I know intimately well where I’ve been and where I need to go. So, yes, I tell myself stories that have no memory yet. But I’m prepping myself to welcome that memory with an open heart. I’m preparing to greet the life I dream about.
Where are you in your story? What story do you want to tell about the life you haven’t lived yet? You owe it to yourself to dream that far ahead. Dream a little. Tell me a story in the comments about the life you haven’t lived. Then, make it happen.