Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 1, 2006


Places I go when I plug into my storehouse of memories


          The mind’s capacity to remember is a marvelous gift provided we use it wisely. We can, of course, remember the bad as well as the good. As we mature we learn the importance of forgetting most of the bad stuff. Not forgetting can ruin our lives by allowing resentment and hatred to take lodging in our hearts.

          Alzheimer’s disease can totally erase a person’s memory. When that happens the victim is forced to endure a condition worse than death. There is only one positive thing to be said about Alzheimer’s. When this disease takes over the mind of a person obsessed with hatred, no memory at all seems better than one filled with hate. But that is a terrible remedy no one would prescribe for a heart diseased by hatred.

          Absentmindedness is a rather common affliction. Most of us have occasional memory lapses when we forget where we parked the car or what we walked into the kitchen to get. Jokingly we may laugh and suppose we are on the verge of having Alzheimer’s even as we pray that earnest prayer, “God forbid.”

          Some people obviously have better memories than others. My wife can remember the design and colors of a dress she treasured as a child. But there are days when it seems hard for me to remember ever being a child.

          That is why, in recent years, I have intentionally tried to “exercise” my memory. I try to go back in time, my time, and recall as much as possible about certain events and experiences tucked away in my memory bank.

          One of the places I go on my memory journeys is the big yellow school bus that took us to school. Our home in the country was at the end of the run. After picking up me and my siblings, the driver started the long, bumpy route back toward town. All the roads off the main highway were gravel roads so for an hour we choked on a tortuous blend of dust and hot air.

          Reading was one of my first loves so I got in the habit of reading books about Tarzan and the Rover Boys during those bus rides. How I managed to read while bouncing over pot holes and breathing that dust I will never know. But it helped to pass the time.

          When I was in the fifth grade I managed to persuade the bus driver to do something he might be fired for doing today. At one point in Red Land the driver turned off the main road and traveled some five miles until the road ended. There he would pick up or unload some children, then turn around and retrace his route.

Each day I persuaded the driver to let me and Tom get off the bus so we could play in the sand by the side of the road until he returned ten to fifteen minutes later. That was high adventure for us boys. It never dawned on me that the driver might be a little nervous until he got us back on the bus. I remember how exhilarating it was to bravely get off the bus and show the other kids what courage we had. For a few minutes we were real men.

Another place I go to in my memories is the swimming hole in the creek down behind our house. My cousins and I would strip off our clothes, splash the water with limbs to scare the snakes away, and enjoy a break from the heat of summer.

In those days I was so determined to have fun that I ignored the danger of those snakes. Later I would shudder to think about the risks we took, playing so carelessly around Cottonmouth Water Moccasins. We were dumb enough to believe those snakes could not bite you in the water.

That swimming hole was huge in my memory. We did a daring thing to swim across to the other side. Since those days I have gone back to that old swimming hole and discovered that the distance to the other side of the creek is only 10 to 12 feet.

Daddy’s farm included some rich river bottom land that bordered the Tallapoosa River for a few miles. That is another place I love to go back to – special spots along the river where I could pick scuppernongs, make rocks skip across the river’s surface, and just sit and think.

To this day I cannot tell the difference between scuppernongs and muscadines. I just loved the fact that they were there in the woods, a delicacy provided by God without any human help. The sweet juice quenched my thirst as I plucked and savored one grape after another, spitting the hulls on the ground. Sometimes I would go back with a bucket and pick enough for Mamma to make a few pints of jelly.

Television is often disgusting and sometimes boring. But I do have fun going back to some of the places that are tucked away in my storehouse of memories. Not all are precious but most are good medicine for an aging mind. + + + +