Memory Building by Valerie J. Patterson

My earliest memories are of being a toddler.  I was barely four years old when my grandfather—my mom’s dad—passed away.  I can easily remember my mom mourning his loss in her life.  I can recall seeing my grandfather in a casket at the funeral home my mother’s side of the family always used whenever there was a death in the family.  I have several memories of my grandfather himself.  My fondest of which was spending the night at his house and getting up early with Grandma to get Grandpap off to work.  She’d fix his breakfast and then prepare and pack his lunch and then bundle me up and put me in the car to drop him off at work.  Oddly, I can remember his laughter, too.  It’s building memories such as these that shape the person we become as we grow and mature.

My parents were such that they made certain they built memories with their children that would last a lifetime.  Every summer—whether there was money in the budget for it or not—we took a family vacation.  Without fail, the week of my father’s birthday in August, we loaded up the car and we had an excellent adventure.  I’ve been all over the United States and various parts of Canada.  My mother used to ask me all the time if I remembered my very first trip to Washington, DC to which my father would gently remind her, I was still in the womb!  Sorry, but my recollections do not go back quite that far!

The way my parents raised my siblings and me has ingrained a strong sense of memory building.  I had hoped to be the same type of parent to my own children.  Unfortunately, I’ve not been blessed with children…yet.  But I have made certain that my husband, Steve, and I build as many memories as we can together.  Every August—the week of my father’s birthday, which happens to be our anniversary—we load up the car and we have an excellent adventure.

It’s not just memories of family vacations or only happy memories that help to shape the person we become.  It takes memories of every variety and they all mesh together to form the fabric by which we live and deal with other human beings.  I can remember my mom spending every spare moment she had to give to her best friend who was diagnosed with cancer.  This taught me compassion and extraordinary love.  I can remember my father stopping on a highway and giving away our coats to keep a young woman warm who’d been seriously injured in an automobile accident until the paramedics arrived.  I remember there always being room at our table for anyone who stopped by and was hungry.  And I remember my parents taking in a young man who’d been turned out of his own home simply because he’d turned eighteen and his father wanted him to become a man.  These all taught me to be giving, caring, and to reach out to those in need.

I can easily recall how hard my father worked, but always had time for his wife and children at the end of the day.  These memories taught me that family comes first and that at the end of the day, that’s who gives us shelter from the storms of life that we face.  I remember being woken up in the middle of the night to watch raccoons twist off the lids to our peanut butter and jelly jars because they were hungry.  This taught me to be prepared for the unexpected and to see the humor in it.  I remember my mom snapping pictures of everything we did.  I know that my dad never missed a single softball game even though I wasn’t the best player on the field.  And I can still see the pride in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he told his friends I was going away to college.  From these memories I learned to be all that I can be regardless of being the best.  To always strive for my goals and to make my dreams come true.

Just as easily, I can remember my father passing away in November of 2001.  That is a memory that helped shape how I dealt with unspeakable grief.  Not to mention an incredible void in my life where once there was boisterous laughter, huge, warm hugs, and a friend who taught me how to be a good person…the kind of person I could be proud of being.

All the memories I have stored up inside my mind and my heart form a tapestry that—if spread out for all the world to see—would be woven together with tears of heartache, the laughter of tremendous joy, the sweat of hard work, and a thread of love that’s unbreakable even in the darkest, toughest times.

As you conclude reading this post, I hope my recollections have brought forth your own cherished memories…the ones you’ve been building throughout your lifetime that shape the person you are.  Gather them about you like a warm blanket and smile at the secrets they hold for you.

Until next time…stay well and happy, and build some new memories that will be with you always.



Hi Everyone!  I’m new to the “Over the Backyard Fence” blog and I’m looking forward to getting to know all who come here to read and share.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my first offering to the blog!  Have a great day and a fantastic weekend!    ~Valerie

6 responses to “Memory Building by Valerie J. Patterson

  1. Hi, Valerie! And welcome to Over The Backyard Fence. I love this blog. I smiled, teared up, and outright laughed. Memory building is a great phrase for life’s lessons. I’ve learned so much from my parents. And just as much, if not more, from my children. We, too, are a traditional family. We take a winter weekend and all go hole up in a cabin in the snow for three nights to reconnect. These are the memories I will cherish forever. 🙂

  2. valeriejpatterson

    Hi Laurie! Thanks so much for the warm welcome and your generous comment. I think it’s fantastic that you and your family go away together to reconnect. It’s so important to strengthen the ties that bind us together as a unit. I imagine there is a lot of laughter when you all get together!

  3. Good morning all, I tried to post earlier but the site was having trouble. Looks like we’re back up now. Valerie, loved your post, it made me pause and be thankful for my memories. So many, and I wouldn’t trade a one. We have a family dinner here every other Sunday. My mother used to do it every Sunday.

    Thanks for a wonderful post and so fitting with Fathers day.

  4. Hi Valerie. Welcome to Over the Backyard Fence. Really enjoyed reading your post and it certainly did make me think about my own cherished memories. Something nobody can ever take away from us.

  5. Welcome Valerie. Looking forward to your posts and getting to know you. This one was great. I also have many memories of traveling with the family. I love it and all the memories I have from childhood and into my own family memories. I think the best times come from the bonding on the road.

    Great tribute to your father. Sorry for your loss.

  6. Valerie J. Patterson

    Wow! I have been out of town for my niece’s baby shower, so the last post I saw was Laurie’s. Thank you all so very much for the warm welcome.

    Lavada…my friend…thank you for the invite to join you here. It’s a great group! My grandma–Dad’s mom–had a Sunday dinner every week, too. She was a fabulous baker. Everything was stored in her mind, and when she died most of her recipes went with her. I loved those Sunday dinners. The house would be packed. After dinner, the kids went to the living room to watch Wonderful World of Disney while the adults played pinochle. I’m glad you host Sunday dinner.

    Tricia…you’re absolutely right…no one can take them away from you. They’re yours. There’s a saying that you shouldn’t live in the past–and I agree with that–but there are days when a good trip into the past does a heart good!

    Jillian…some of my fondest memories are of those trips. 5 people in the tight quarters of a car often lead to exceptional memories even if there were a few grumpy times! Thank you so much for your condolences. I miss my dad every day. This weekend is particularly difficult because he’s not here with me.

    Thank you for reading and for all the great comments. I’m so excited about being here!

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