Memory is a child

Jeff and our boys stroll along Ka'anapali Beach, Maui 1991

Jeff and our boys stroll along Ka’anapali Beach, Maui 1991

“Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.”Pierce Harris

Memory is nothing if not selective in what it retains.  Hence five people may truthfully give five different accounts of the same event.  Yet some memories can be dormant rather than fully lost, called suddenly and vividly back to life by a scent, a song, or the sight of a vintage toy once loved but long forgotten, spotted years later in an antique shop.  Memory, for most of us, is a giant archive with ponderous hidden power.

Whether or not we are aware of it, each of us is storing up these small pebbles against a day when we will need to retrieve and reflect on something beautiful in the midst of pain or sorrow.  And we all toss, sometimes without much thought, dozens of pebbles into the minds of our loved ones and friends; a compliment, a treat, a small favor in a difficult hour, or a moment of light-hearted shared laughter.  Some of these small bits of life will be forgotten almost immediately, but some will remain and be treasured.

Have you ever had a friend say “I will never forget how much I appreciated what you said to me then” or “I don’t know how I would have managed if you had not helped me?”  Often when we are the recipients of such praise, we have no recall of the kindness so fondly recounted, and we may find that others have forgotten the compassionate words or actions they offered us in a time of trouble.  Kind words and loving deeds may seem insignificant at the time, but the blessings they bestow often grow richer over the years, stored fondly away to be taken out and cherished when needed most.


  1. God Morning, BeLOVE Julia, Thank You for encouraging all of us to remember: What kinda of pebbles am i leaving on the ‘beach’ of life this day? I take comfort also in that i get to choose which ones i will pick up and treasure and which ones i will throw in to vast ocean to be remembered no more. May God bless us all to remember to choose wisely and thus be blessed and be a blessing.

    • A good thought, Kate. I wish I was more choosy about what I remember. I have often wished I could erase a lot of what is in my memory, but at least I can choose NOT to dwell on the unhappy stuff. Maybe next time I’m at the beach I’ll fling some symbolic pebbles back in as a way of emphasizing the letting go of past hurts. I am lucky to have far, far more happy memories to treasure and that’s what the blog is all about. Thanks for being here!

  2. Amen!

    • …said the big brother who has given me lots of shiny fun pebbles to take out and enjoy! Thanks for being here today.

  3. Lynn

    I’m working on a piece for my column about grieving when a pet dies. Your words about storing up pebbles really hits the mark — we can store up the happy days of dog walk and frolic — and lean on those “pebbles of memory” when the pain of our dog’s passing comes. Hope you won’t mind if I convey a similar idea in my column. You are a wise writer–

    • Lynn, I would be honored if you would use whatever you want for your column. Send me a link or a copy when it comes out, as I am likely to need it myself since Pasha will probably not be with us too much longer. He’s about the same age as “Molly-girl” so Kathy and I have both been lucky to have many, many years of happy memories to treasure. Thanks for being here!

  4. Sheila

    Julia, I’m so sorry to read that you now have the “bug”. I hope it is the shortest, mildest, form
    and tomorrow will be a better day. Your words just touched my heart today. Your last sentence is so beautifully written, I think I’ll save it for future reference. Rest and recover!

    • Thank you, Sheila. I am happy to say that I already feel much better. Not back to 100% but I have definitely seen the worst of it I hope. I appreciate your kind words – happy you liked today’s post!

  5. I love that idea, collecting pebbles. I do know that good memories are easier to carry than bad, so best just leave those on the beach. We went snorkelling oat Ka’anapali just over a year ago, We got lucky and saw a sea turtle while just swimming off the beach. We had bought one of those cheap underwater cameras that didn’t give good photo’s at all, so I’ll have to just savour the memory of how exciting it was to be so close to nature and watch him/her have lunch. I see your boys were so little in ’91’, it must be fun to look back at holiday photo’s when your little men are all grown up.

    • Yes, it’s fun to look back, but also a little bit sad sometimes. However, I would not want to go back to those years because I would never have the stamina or energy to do all the things now that we used to do then! Kids really keep you busy. We didn’t end up doing much snorkeling while we lived in Hawaii – the one time we went to Hanauma Bay on Oahu (which is where all the tourists go to snorkel) it was so crowded that the water was dirty and cloudy. We should have tried it someplace where the water was more clear. It would be thrilling to see the fish, turtles, etc. underwater. I do think Ka’anapali is one of the most beautiful beaches on Maui. I can imagine the snorkeling would be great there.

      • Oh darn hey? We actually had a nice experience at Hanauma Bay, such pretty schools of fish. Any amount of wind does tend to cloud up the water. We went snorkelling 3 days in Maui because we just loved it. We borrowed a cooler from our B&B and picked up snacks at that awesome general store on the way down to the beach. In between swims we’d read our novels, chat or picnic. I also love that it’s a dog friendly beach. Met lots of fun pups playing in the water or catching Frisbees. Dog owners usually love to talk about their pets too. I hope you have the chance to go again, it’s a relaxing day.

        • I will file that away in my mental “stuff to do someday” folder. Sounds like a wonderful day to me. I love taking a picnic basket to the beach. It’s even more fun when dogs are there, although I’ve rarely seen that. We did get to see some dogs playing in the ocean in Tobago, and it was a blast. This one dog would run to the end of the jetty and just jump in, then swim back, climb up, and jump in again. I had never seen a dog that enjoyed diving. It was very funny. Somewhere I probably have photos of it, but it’s not the same as actually seeing it.

          • Omgosh, I would have loved that. Watching the joy that a dog can find in their day just makes me so happy. Our Buddy used to just love to walk. He’d go full speed and peek back every now and again. You’d see the big smile on his face and my heart would be so full. I was constantly stopping to hug him.

            • Dogs have such an amazing capacity to enjoy life, don’t they? When our older son was in 10th grad he wrote a haiku about our dog that I thought was really good. I would write it here except that I’ll probably be using it in an upcoming post. Suffice it to say that we have a lot to learn from our canine friends! What kind of dog was Buddy? You may have blog post about him but if so, I don’t remember seeing it yet.

              • I didn’t grow up with a dog, lucky Chris. What a charming thing to do. I’ll watch for his Haiku.
                Thanks for asking, our Buddy was a rescue, he was 7 when we got him. A lab/husky cross. Sweet as could be. Here’s his post,

                • Thanks for the link to your post, it was beautiful. I pinned a picture of Buddy on my Pinterest “I love dogs!” page. Hope you don’t mind.

                  • (((( Julia ))) you’re so thoughtful, thank you. Of course I don’t mind. He was a doll. I’ll have to visit your board. We miss him. xK

                    • We have no way to measure the amount of good that dogs (and other animals) have done in this world, but it’s nice for them to be recognized with tributes. I love the way military service dogs are given honors and retirement ceremonies when they retire! Some go into combat zones to sniff out bombs, etc. but they serve in all sorts of ways. There are two therapy dogs that visit the chemo clinic at Walter Reed Med Center while the patients are getting chemo. They wear the fatigues and have rank insignias and everything. I love it! I’ll have to try to take some photos of them sometime. I asked one of their handlers how a dog made rank and they said usually it has to do with their human counterpart who trains them (something like that – I may be confused). I have been impressed with their training, though. Once when I tried to engage one of the dogs in conversation, she greeted me briefly and then politely left to stop by and greet each person in her immediate area, walking from one to the other, before coming back to visit with me. Pretty amazing. Then when I asked her to come see Jeff (who was on the other side of the room) she immediately looked up at her handler as if to ask permission before coming to see Jeff.

                    • AWESOME, I love that Julia. Thanks for sharing your story. I couldn’t imagine a life without pets. Some can’t manage the hair or afford their care. We’re lucky to be able. I was watching Nate Burkus report from New Orleans right after Katrina and he offered to help a young man who was sobbing because he couldn’t take his dog to the shelter. Nate and his crew offered to take the dog with them. I must have bawled for an hour thinking about all the pets. I still get emotional about it. Communities at large need to rethink that, what with more and more weather related tragedies happening every year.

                    • I agree, and I am encouraged to be seeing more information and education about disaster planning for pets. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of losing everything to a storm especially when pets have to be left behind. I do think many communities are starting to include animals in their disaster planning, as well we should.

      • Rene

        Talk about bawling over a dog…Queen Latifah recently had a segment on her show about a couple who organizes foster homes for dogs of deployed military. A returned soldier was reunited with her dog on the air; the dog was tentative at first, but then went crazy with joy. Gotta stop, starting to cry telling the story.

        • I just love these stories about soldiers and their dogs. Reminds me of this photo and others I’ve seen. I don’t know if people who aren’t on Pinterest can see it, but I imagine if you Google the term “soldier and dog” you might get some really heartwarming stuff! I might look on YouTube for that clip; I’m sure it will show up there eventually (though it might get pulled for copyright restrictions).

  6. True. Once I wrote on the same topic. Selective retention often amazes me – I could never forget certain insignificant things while I forget bigger incidents. And they keep haunting me.

    • Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just shop through our past, keep only what we want and erase the rest? I too have insignificant memories that I can’t totally get rid of, but I’m learning to “change channels” when the unpleasant or sad stuff comes up. AND try to concentrate on what is happy and good, which is one reason why I am doing this blog! Thanks for visiting here!


  1. What anyone wants to remember | Defeat Despair

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: