"The Way We Were" is the beautiful, melancholy title song from a movie that came out in 1973, the year Grandma B and I met. "Memories light the corners of my mind; misty watercolor memories of the way we were." Those are the opening lines of the song and describe the mood I often find myself in as I begin one of these essays. Reminiscing lets me revisit the past with filters in place to block out the less pleasant parts.
Many of the art prints we have hanging on the walls of our house are literal "misty watercolors." I don't know if there is really a connection there, but it seems that my way (and perhaps most people's way) of remembering the past is like the artist Paul Sawyier's way of capturing his beloved Kentucky River Valley in his paintings. The rough edges are smoothed away by the fog of selective remembering and the glow of sentiment highlights the good times. At times, even imagination plays a role in our remembering, in the same way his "Mile High Bridge" uses memory and fantasy to create an ethereal scene that never was.
There is no doubt that my childhood memories benefit from the filter of time. Living in unheatable houses, wearing hand me down clothes, and having the same thing in my school lunch pail every day is not the stuff of idyllic childhood; But growing up in a loving family, part of an extended family of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins who all cared for one another was more than compensation, and I only wish that everyone's memories could be as happy as mine.
I have to admit to a certain enjoyment of the melancholy part of memory as well. A little wistful longing for what once was, a dash of pondering what might have been, and maybe even a touch of regret all add to the flavor of memory. Dabbling in melancholy is mostly a good way to "pinch myself awake;" to wake me up to recognizing how profoundly I have been blessed. I don't need to look at my life through a veil of mist that hides the rough edges; I can see very clearly that I am "The Richest Man I Know."