Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 7, 2010


Reliving pleasant memories is good exercise for the mind


The mind’s capacity to remember is a marvelous gift when wisely used. We can remember the bad and 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 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 such a terrible remedy no one would prescribe for a mind sick with hatred.

          Absentmindedness is a 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. However some of us have better memories than others. My wife can remember the design and colors of a dress she treasured as a child. I am amazed at her memory while there are days when I find it hard to remember ever being a child.

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

          One of the places I go on my memory journeys is inside 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. 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 a fifth grader I persuaded 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 the driver allowed me, James 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 we got back on the bus. It was exhilarating to 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. In the summertime my cousins and I would strip off our clothes, splash the water to scare the snakes away, and enjoy a break from the heat. In later years I shuddered to think about the risks we took, playing so carelessly around Cottonmouth Water Moccasins. But back then we were young, naïve, and carefree.  

In my memory, that swimming hole was huge. 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.

Scuppernongs in the woods were a delicacy provided by God without any human help. The sweet juice quenched my thirst as I plucked and savored one after another, spitting the hulls on the ground. Sometimes I would go back with a bucket and pick enough for Mama to make a few pints of jelly.

Reliving pleasant memories is good exercise for the mind and an excellent cure for boredom. For me it is good fun to wander back for awhile into some of the places tucked away in my storehouse of memories. Not all are precious but some are good medicine for an aging mind. +