The most beautiful things are not associated with money; they are memories and moments. If you don’t celebrate those, they can pass you by. —Alek Wek
Growing up, we didn’t have much money, which meant there was little opportunity to do anything outside the ordinary, like trips and vacations, and our holidays were typically a bit less spectacular than that of our peers. As a young person, it was easy to feel like we were missing out on something special. While “everyone else” got to go on fun excursions and receive extravagant gifts, our days were filled with the mundaneness of everyday life. Unbeknownst to me, and without my knowledge or consent, it was in the midst of our seemingly trivial life that memories were being made.
I remember one very special Christmas in particular when my younger sister and I found out there was little to no money available for gifts. Our parents solicited conservative requests from each of us in hopes that maybe they could have something for us to open on Christmas day. Christmas day came and my sister and I went into our parents’ room. Sitting on their bed on Christmas morning, we each received a meager gift, but the moments spent together on that day were among the most memorable of my childhood—not because of any gift, or lack thereof, but because of the authenticity of the moment—the expression of love from parent to child, even in the face of financial struggles that would seemingly limit the meaning of that day. It was a memory in the making. There were other Christmases before and after but that year, Christmas had an extraordinary touch that set it apart from all the rest.
When my own children came along, I was fortunate enough to have the resources to take them on annual vacations and to fulfill many of their Christmas wishes. And, through the years, we have had countless vacations and a couple of decades of Christmases together. But as I reflect on all those trips and holidays, the most memorable experiences were things that happened in ordinary moments—like the first time my oldest son sang with me at our annual Christmas show, or the time my middle son looked at me and said, “Mommy, you and I are alike—we’re both odd,” or the time my daughter and I sat on the floor, waiting for the DC subway—just facing one another and laughing together—all just ordinary moments of extraordinary significance.
Whether extravagant or simple, big or small, extraordinary or ordinary, the most beautiful experiences in life are those in which we make a memory that transcends time and space. So, next time you think about making a memory, you may discover you’re already in the midst of one—and, when all is said and done, you may not remember the words spoken, you may not remember the actions taken, you may not remember the exact time and place it happened—what you will remember is how you felt in that moment. At its essence, a memory is simply a Meaningful Encounter that Makes Others Remember You. As author Lucy Maud Montgomery says, “Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”