we remember feelings, not events

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  — Maya Angelou

People don’t always remember what’s happened very well.  History may be real, but how we recall it is…complicated. But, as I’ve spoken with people over time, I find we all remember how we felt with a person.  Whether they made us feel good, stressed, jubilant, terrified. We remember the feelings.

Thinking back on my own memories, I remember the adventures. But I don’t remember what I did or where I went. I recall feeling exciting and important, or, alternatively reflective and peaceful. I recall feeling serene, roadtripping with my dad and listening to James Taylor. We collected these little blue and white china figurines. I guess that counts as a detail, but honestly I can barely fit together the puzzle pieces of my own life!

I moved cities when I was young. Even if I didn’t remember this, I know this happened. I think I should have been scared. Some kids are? I honestly don’t remember feeling sad or scared. I remember feeling excited.

I also remember feeling productive when my mom did little crafty things with my siblings and I, although I couldn’t name a single project we did together (we must have done puzzles together?). I remember feeling sophisticated watching some old movie together. I remember feeling so happy when my siblings were born, and especially when I got to be a big sister for the first time.

And when we do remember specifics from our past? It isn’t always what one might think is “important.”

It’s funny, because the munchkins have quite a good memory for specific details. But it’s not details that adults think they’d remember. The oldest remember the stupid little fairy houses we built together out of twigs and leaves and stones.  They all remember that time I took them to a frozen yogurt shop and the park and climbed trees. I wonder if they remember being so tired walking home that I had to carry them. But why worry about those details?

But I also know they, too, remember feelings. They were too young to remember what I did with them as a baby, but they treat me in a way that says they remember I was kind and loving. That, sure, I’ve messed up along the way, but, overall, they have a good sense about me. You can see it in the way they look at me, talk with me, play with me. How they run to me if I cry out in pain and make sure I’m okay and give me ice packs.

I hope the feelings stay with them, even if all the memories fade. Because I always want them to remember that I loved them and will always love them.

The rest, well, the devil is in the details, right?

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