The power of memories


The mail sometimes brings funny things.

The other day it brought a complimentary issue of Reader’s Digest. The publisher in a marketing blitz was looking to sign me up as a subscriber. I haven’t read Reader’s Digest in years, in fact decades.

IMG_7598I skimmed through the October issue and the smell of the little magazine brought back a lifetime of memories. In particular, the magazine reminded me of waiting for what seemed like hours on end for my mom to get her hair done. When I was really young and we lived in Allensville, Pennsylvania, a small town with only a few hundred residents, she would take me to her salon to get her hair cut and styled.

I’m not sure why my mom took me along with her every time she got her  hair done, but I hated it. I suspect she worried my brothers would beat me up or let me wander off down the street. In retrospect, it was probably a good move on my mom’s part.

In any event, I hated the hair salon. It smelled weird. It had those strange professional hair dryers that you sit in and form a half circle over your head. And most of all, I hated the salon because there was nothing to do.

I’d usually bring a few crayons and a coloring book. If I forgot them, my last resort was to read the magazines, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Garden, etc. None of these magazines interested me much. The only one that raised an eyebrow or two was Readers’ Digest. The small little magazine and it’s various sections including “Life In These United States” and “Laughter, the Best Medicine” helped the minutes pass by until my mom was trimmed and primmed and ready to go.

The funny little stories helped me to become a better reader. I started to understand that reading wasn’t just for school. It could help pass the time too. I can’t say I ever looked forward to going to the salon, but I certainly learned how to make the time go by faster.

It’s amazing how a smell or a picture can take us back and the strange places it takes us. From that Reader’s Digest, my crazy brain wandered off to high school, acting in our senior class variety show, and then off to college, living first in cavernous East Halls and then in the fraternity. I got to thinking too about my lame attempt at trying to climb a fence in State College in slippery dock siders. For some reason, my friends and I were too lazy to walk to the front of a friend’s apartment complex. The apartment had enough serpentine wire to make it look like a prison and we still tried to climb it. No they actually climbed it . . . I failed miserably.  I ended up gashing up my shoulder and underarm pretty badly. I swore to the doctor the next day that alcohol had nothing to do with the accident. Yea, he didn’t buy it either. And certainly not one of my finer moments.

From there my walk down memory lane took me to Washington, D.C. and getting down on bended knee to propose to Kathy; standing by her side as we had each of our kids and a million other memories that we’ve made over the past 23 years.

All from one little magazine.

I wonder if Erin or Sean or Stephen will one day open their laptop or click on their phone and think of memories running through a store shopping for Christmas with me or eating out at Five Guys or some other crazy memory.

I hope so.

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