This is definitely one of my favorite times of the year: fall leaves, cooler temperatures, college football teams competing, and little league baseball. Watching the boys play the game they love is fun.
I have been rather nostalgic in my writing these past few weeks. I guess that’s what happens when more of one’s life is behind than ahead. It is a surreal feeling, let me assure you. Watching my children face decisions in life and choose the good for their sweet families is truly joyful.
Regardless, this week I would like to share personal experiences that have stayed with me from my childhood. I am frequently amazed at how they still shape life today.
We learned to work hard as children, but my childhood was full of fun, too. My family had a membership to a swimming club in our neighborhood. We spent many hours as a family swimming there and would occasionally take a picnic dinner. I remember it with such fondness.
Since the club was right in our neighborhood near the church building, we could get there by hopping our fence and running across the field rather than going the long way around (which meant following the road in our community). My mother tells a story about the time they could not find me anywhere. I must have been 4 or 5 at the time. The family solicited help from friends and searched the neighborhood, but it was all in vain. I wasn’t found until somebody thought to check at the swimming club (even though children were not supposed to be admitted without an adult).
And sure enough, that’s where I had been, by myself, the whole day. The swimming club of course had a deep end and diving board and a soda machine with tall, cold bottles of many flavors of pop for just 10 cents each. The club also boasted tennis courts. My brother and I used to serve balls just for fun. Maybe that had to do with my playing tennis later on in high school. It is no wonder that I ended up at the swimming club so often.
Another one of the joys of childhood for me was Little League. I was really excited to play Little League Baseball when I turned 8 years old. Tryouts was a day I will never forget. My skills were those of an eight-year-old, but my ambition and excitement knew no limits. I joined the United Fence baseball team with my older brother Gregg. I admired him and his friends so greatly. They knew how to play sports well and were really good in my view; playing on the same team was a dream come true.
I used to pride myself by saying that shortstop was my favorite position. It was, but I probably played right field more often. But that’s okay! Right fielders have their glory days, too. Mine was in a big game. Mom and Dad were in the bleachers and the league’s big, infamous left-handed hitter on the opposing team came to the plate. The pitcher threw a perfect strike toward home plate. Crack! The ball headed straight for right field and the crowd erupted.
Excitement and fear hit me all at once, like an electrical current surging through my body. I fought the temptation to run forward. I considered that I might need to shift back. The ball seemed to just hang in the air. I don’t remember moving too much, maybe not at all. Providence in heaven must have carried that ball hurling through the air to its destination for the hopes of a small boy. Before I knew it, the ball dropped directly into my mitt.
No one could have been more surprised than I was when I actually caught the ball. In fact, I was so happy that I wasn’t going to let it go—that is, until everyone started yelling because the runners on base had tagged up and began sprinting around the bases. I loved practicing baseball in our yard, playing in the baseball games at the local elementary school, trading for our favorite players baseball cards, and going to 7-Eleven after every game for a Slurpee–win or lose—and doing it all with my big brother Gregg. Life was so magical and wonderful as a child.
So what does any of this have to do with you? It has direct application to you and probably a lot more than you realize. We all have memories we cherish, but the daily challenges of life often prevent us from enjoying our abundance of good memories. Frequently, we are told to write down our histories for our posterities so they have something to remember us by. I fully advocate that process and encourage all of you to do so. My parents’ personal histories are one of the greatest treasures I have in life. But today I want to encourage you to write down your stories from childhood, teenage years, dating, courtship, and marriage for YOURSELF.
That’s right—do it for you!
Life is hard. Challenges are many. So why not celebrate the successes in life and enjoy your cherished memories again? God gave us our memories that we might glean strength, enjoyment, and wisdom from them. Others have articulated well the reason we have memories. One of my favorites is from the Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie, who said, “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”
I love that. And like many things in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we find that when we follow its teachings and serve in various positions, we often get more out of our calling or contribution than we ever provide. For example, who has ever given a talk in church or taught a lesson and wasn’t the most significant recipient of the blessing and principles shared? Such is the case when we keep the commandments; our lives are blessed beyond what we understand or deserve. And so it is for recording your memories. You will always be glad that you saved a memory, especially later on.
Let me share one more memory with you to illustrate my point.
Just up our street, hardly a block from our house, lived a kind old woman and her son—right across the street from my friends the Webbs. The Gobles were welcoming and friendly to us children. I visited Mrs. Goble frequently; I enjoyed cheering her up (and eating the treats she provided). She was always so happy to see me. She obviously enjoyed having company, and I was 4 or 5 at the time and filled that need wonderfully.
As benevolent as that may sound, I admittedly was there mostly for the treats. Sometime during my visit, after introductory pleasantries and questions about my family, Mrs. Goble brought out the cookies—and I was allowed to take whatever I wanted! Imagine that: a whole tray of sugar cookies, pecan pralines, lemon drops, and shortbread-like Mexican wedding cakes. I didn’t know the actual names of the variety of delicacies; I just remember savoring every bite.
Mrs. Goble must have known how much I liked the cookies because she kept them coming as long as I would sit there and visit—and I expect that she knew I never got such a prize all to myself in a house of eight children, so we kept having regular visits for some time, until my mother found out. Then I was gently rebuked not to solicit treats from poor old Mrs. Goble. You would think I would have been crushed, but truth is, I felt that I was getting too old for this kind of engagement and I didn’t know how I was going to break it to my elderly friend.
So it all worked out in the end, but I will always remember with fondness my wonderful visits to Mrs. Goble’s.
Yes, my memories have made me who I am today. I am grateful for good parents, a kind and loving Father in Heaven, and great memories of good times when I have lived and loved life.
No matter the outcome of our lives and memories, we can all be winners.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.