Blowing on Embers

Blowing on Embers: I came across this lovely phrase the other day.

Have you ever sat around an evening campfire? Remember how when it started to die out and you weren’t quite ready to call it a night or maybe you wanted just one more toasted marshmallow, you blew on the embers to keep the fire alive?glowing coalsWell, Johanne from has  put a new spin on that old tradition. After she lost her father, mother, and a special aunt, all within a year, Johanne and her sister wanted to make certain they wouldn’t forget their own story.  They began a new family tradition—trading stories of childhood memories. In other words, they began blowing on embers of the dying fire of their family’s personal history.

Reading Johanne’s story, I immediately identified with the concept. Recalling memories is a favorite pastime around here. It’s why I create and peruse photo albums and scrapbooks. And it’s what I do with much of my writing.

I’ve told children and grandchildren about memories from when I was no more than two years old, one from even earlier in my life. These “memories” are actually no more than snapshots in time, and I’ve come to realize I don’t so much remember them as I remember the remembering of them from stories told and retold. But that’s the point, and it’s why it’s so important to keep recounting them.

Reminiscing is a social activity that gives meaning and coherence to our personal narratives. It keeps family history alive. It triggers nostalgia, and nostalgia gives us an endorphin boost, improving our mood and making us feel better able to tackle whatever challenge we face at the moment.

Memories, especially childhood ones, are fragile. Without jogging them, they fade, ultimately dissolving, like a morning fog, into nothingness. Yet, our early moments are powerful ones, shaping our lives. As we weave the vignettes into a whole, our life stories emerge. We better understand who we have become.

The accumulation of childhood memories, even those enhanced by retelling, also influences our on-going behavior. There’s evidence that when childhood memories are triggered, we behave more kindly and ethically towards others. Our memories, it turns out, serve as a moral compass.

So let’s get to work. I’ll be blowing on my own embers on this blog. Maybe the glowing coals of my stories will spark some of your fondest childhood memories. Share them. It will do you—and the world around you—good. I’d love to hear your stories. Feel free to share them in comments beneath each post.

16 thoughts on “Blowing on Embers

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  15. I can relate to your “I don’t so much remember them as I remember the remembering of them…” ! In 2006, I wrote 206 very short poems. A lot of what I remembered from 1954 through 1962 was in those poems. I know it all happened because…I remember it? No, but I remember remembering it. And there is a difference!


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