Keeping it Real: Tangible Memories

In Louisiana Ladies, Teri Netterville by Lola Magazine

Have you ever been rummaging through old drawers or found yourself digging through cluttered closets looking for something when suddenly, your eyes land on an old keepsake that you had totally forgotten about?  Once you spot it, you quickly grab it and spend the next few moments just staring at it as a smile shoots across your lips. In a flash, your mind races back in time to that place when this possession became so special to you. 

This is what I call a tangible memory.  A tangible memory is any possession that we hold onto for the sake of the memory that comes with it.  And I have to wonder why pondering the past makes us feel so good and maybe a little sad at the same time. Do you know what I mean?  It hurts the heart, while at the same time, shooting darts of sweetness into it all at the same time. It hurts so good, I guess you could say. 

To have something tangible in our possession that brings with it significant meaning is to have healing power at our fingertips. 

Most of us parents have drawers, closets or bins in our possession that hold some of our children’s sweetest childhood mementos…like their childhood drawings, or their baby teeth, maybe even a tiny capsule of their baby hair.  As they grow older, we hang onto their report cards, art projects, trophies, field day ribbons and everything else we can fit into our vault of happy memories. And of course, we store away pictures of them cheerfully celebrating every special occasion that ever happened in their entire life because…well…that’s what we do. It’s who we are.  We will hang onto these tangibles until we can share these priceless treasures with our grandchildren one day.

When a loved one dies, some of us might take comfort in having pictures of them displayed around the house reminding us of happier times when they were with us on this earth. Some might take comfort in having their loved one’s old Bible neatly stowed away on their nightstand.  For others, they might draw comfort from wearing their loved one’s jewelry or keeping a handwritten note from them in their coat pocket. There are so many ways people honor their loved ones, once that loved one has passed away.

One of my greatest and most cherished treasures was given to me almost a decade ago for my 40th birthday.  My mom had gathered some of my late father’s white buttoned-down shirts, cut them up in quilt squares, pieced and sewed them together, adding the coziest coverlet to create me the greatest and most special blanket I will ever own in my life.

I knew instantly what this blanket was and even though she had washed it, I could still smell my father. I quickly wrapped myself up in this blanket and tears streamed down my cheeks as I felt my father’s hug through this blanket for the first time since he had taken his last breath on earth.

These tangible memories possess healing agents that can actually heal one’s heart, even when they feel their heart is breaking. *Fun fact: I am literally wrapped up in this blanket right now as I type this piece for all of you.*

By my mom creating this special blanket for me, I was able to start thinking of ways that I could possibly gift my own children with something as sweet and meaningful as well. 

Like many of you, I have kept and safely stored away every special shirt that ever represented a meaningful chapter in each of my children’s lives. 

So, following my mom’s lead, I wondered if I could find someone who knew how to piece all of these childhood shirts together and create one big, beautiful blanket of memories for a special graduation gift.

With one phone call, my friend said, “Teri Ann, call Ann Chandler. She is an amazing quilter and she does this kind of quilt all of the time!”

When I presented my daughter with her “Lifetime of Memories” T-shirt quilt on her graduation day, she was truly overwhelmed. Thrilled. We had the best time going over each and every square, simply reliving the past, while tangibly holding onto a piece of it in the present.

I’ve noticed that possessions, like this type of heirloom quilt, can hold such power and comfort within them for the person who cherishes it.  There is so much meaning…so many feelings and memories. We are reminded of who we are, where we come from and what we hope to become for this world.

Mostly, however, these treasures connect us to a time and a place when our lives were shared with those who happened along our life path during that special part of our journey here on earth.  

The element of sacredness and holiness that comes with these memories spills into any tangible possession from that time period.  For many people, memories from the past can bring about pain and heartache. But they can also flood the heart with sweet memories of such good and happy times…. challenging times…exciting times…crazy times…simple times…and as always, memories of those times when life, quite frankly, kept us real.