- Monday, June 23, 2008
Remembering transforms him from the inside out. Memory takes hold, and character emerges as the direction becomes clear. Simba resolves to return to Pride Rock and take back both his life and his rightful place. After defeating the tyrant Scar, he rebuilds the kingdom and restores the environment. The music is sweet again. All is well, and all because he remembered.
Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite writers, helps us to sort our memories when he writes, “I am inclined to believe that God’s chief purpose in giving us memory is to enable us to go back in time so that if we didn’t play those roles right the first time round, we can still have another go at it now. . . . Through the power that memory gives us of thinking, feeling, imagining our way back through time we can . . . [remove the power of the past] to hurt us and other people.”7
Not only can we heal the wounds of the past, but we can harness the strengthening nature of the past to our own good and the good of those around us. By remembering, we can reform. By reflecting, we can bless the past. By reclaiming our positive memories, we can inherit their power to strengthen us for the future.
Memory is the lifeblood of character and identity. Forgetfulness is destructive. Remembering who we are is one of the most important things we can do as human beings.
The Yellow Formica Table
For Simba, it was a reflecting pool. For me, it was a yellow Formica table.
As I sat on the couch with my grandson as the closing credits rolled on the screen, my mind drifted toward my own past. The movie may have been over, but the impact of the evening on me was not. As my little grandson drowsed against my side, my mind scrolled through a recollection of my own—a memory more than half a century old.
When I was a little boy, I, too, spent a special day with my grandpa, William Weber. That day was also something of a great adventure, and it, too, had included the finest of desserts after dinner—one of my grandpa’s famous ice cream and Pepsi floats.
Fifty years ago, there was no Lion King. In fact, there was no home video. Before television had become popular enough to start eroding the foundations of family life in America, my grandparents practiced an evening ritual of playing table games. As it turned out, that particular night, with a simple table game for our entertainment, would leave a permanent mark on my memory and my life. It was a memory that would also shape my future, because nearly twenty years later, the simple recollection of that night would save my career.
It’s a story I’ve told many times, but I offer no apologies for repeating it here. Life-shaping memories are made to be told and retold.
Grandpa and Grandma and I were seated in the kitchen nook, at the old, yellow Formica table, playing Parcheesi. To my frustration, I had fallen well behind in the game, and I was becoming desperate. The last thing a scruffy little boy would ever want to do is lose to his own grandma. So I cheated. And I got caught.
The game stopped. So did the chatter. My grandma turned her eyes to my grandpa, and the mood in the kitchen turned very serious. I felt my face getting hot. Grandpa dropped his glasses down to the tip of his nose, and he looked directly into my eyes. “Stu,” he said, “you’re a Weber boy. And Weber boys don’t lie, cheat, or steal.”
I loved my grandpa, and I knew he loved me. His blue eyes sparkled, even into his eighties. He was a practical, straightforward man, and he taught me how to work with purpose. He was also a fun-loving man who taught me to laugh. I would never have intentionally disappointed him.
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