We’re in Spain, and my son has brought home half the beach to keep forever. It is a collection of shells: here a big solid one; there a tiny ice-cream cone; there a fairy’s fingernail, there a misshapen shell disguised as a brown tile, but once part of a living organism. There are twenty laid out; he wants them all.
I remember this. I hoarded, as a child; I made collections. Stamps, candles, letters, memories.
As an adult I hoard memories, especially now I am chronically ill. When you are in the outside world, who knows when you can repeat the experience?
I breathe in the good of the material world in a way I didn’t before being housebound: here there are palm trees and blue sky, with birds dropping poo even as they fly so gracefully though the sky. That image is a quirky one – beauty and grossness side by side, as is so common in life. I add it to my collection.
Here there is a bodega, shelves of wine bottles on the wall, and Spanish men in full throat, slapping one another on the back, and hugging when they cry. They are so freer with their emotions than us in the UK. I keep that memory, too.
But I am aware that my brain has become clogged and clouded. Like an overfull store cupboard, I hold so many stories and memories that I think I will burst. In fact, this is what writing is: the spring cleaning of brain-clutter.
Some of us – particularly writers – hoard our memories like shells from the beach. There are pros and cons to this: we remember our story more vividly, but it can also mean our minds are clogged with too many memories, with their accompanying emotions.
I reason with my son: they can’t all go back in the suitcase.
“Choose the most beautiful to take home with you,” I counsel him.
In the Bible, it says God stores our tears in a bottle. Every single tear shed, all those memories: collected, even treasured, by God.
Knowing this releases me to let go of some of the harder memories – God has them. Those hurts are not forgotten by God, and I do not have to nurse the memory in order to honour the hurt.
I consider the memories I will form of this holiday, and this life; the incidents and scenes I will take with me as I retell and reshape the story of this trip in my mind.
‘Choose the most beautiful,’ I tell myself.
“You keep track of all my sorrows.
“You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
“You have recorded each one in your book.” – Psalm 56:8, NLT
“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8, NRSV
Linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday. This was my best five minutes on ‘collect’
Over to you:
- How do you order the memories in your head? Are you a memory-hoarder?
- What does it mean to you to have God collect the tears you cry?