My friend, Laurel, and I have known each other since high school. We were biology partners—and we both had a crush on the same teacher! We live on the same street now, and enjoy getting together to catch up. Tuesday evening was hot and humid. As we sat on her back porch with a cold drink, Laurel mentioned a list she had written—something to cheer friends up. With COVID still a threat, climate change and political stuff going on, Laurel said we all tend to think about the negative when there are so many positive memories we can find—memories that are just a “clue” away.
She told me about her list of 100 clues; questions that might spark a fond or funny memory—and I asked if I could fill it in. Laurel was right. Sometimes all you have to do to cheer yourself up is to delve into your own treasure chest of good memories.
I wanted to share her list with everyone and hope it brings some smiles and even some great stories. Here then is Laurel’s list with answers from both of us—along with a photo of her and myself as kids. I hope you enjoy this exercise as much as I did!
Snapshots and Images
We are all made up, at any age, of zillions of tiny moments…visual, experiential, touch, smell, taste…and it’s sometimes amazing how some trigger in the ‘now’ can bring back all sorts of ‘snapshots’ of memories from our lifetime. I have a friend who is just 22 and doing this…already saying “Oh, my gosh…I remember that…” The snapshots can be big things, or just fun things, simple things like remembering a squirrel running across the road, twitching its tail or the smell of lavender in the garden. See if some of these prompts can trigger some of your memory snapshots. Just remember this is about happy memories.
1. Do you remember seeing your spouse or a friend for the first time?
Laurel: I remember first seeing my husband Colin on a ski trip, in his red ski jacket. Putting on his skis.
Lynn: I remember seeing my partner Paul in elementary school. He will deny that he wore glasses, but that’s how I remember him! He had thick dark hair and a big smile. We were in grade 5.
2. What are your memories of the coldest you’ve ever been?
Laurel: I remember the cold on that ski trip…the air twinkled with ice crystals.
Lynn: The coldest I have ever been is in Lynn Lake Manitoba. It was a reported -50 Celsius and with a wind, it was said to be -70. It was too dangerous to go outside.
3. Do you have a sport you like? Doing it or watching it? What are the senses you associate with that sport?
Laurel: I remember the swishing sound of cross-country skis…the crunchy squeak of the snow under my skis.
Lynn: My favourite sport to watch is basketball. I love to see fast minds working against fast opponents—and time.
4. What memories do you associate with sounds?
Laurel: I remember listening to Gregorian Chants at the Cloisters in New York City and the church bells in Positano, in Italy. Horses whinnying when I took riding lessons. Ukuleles in the dark in Bora Bora. Hearing a kookaburra laugh for the first time in Australia.
Lynn: The first memory of sound that comes to mind is my dad singing a lullaby as he carried me up the stairs to bed.
5. How about a memory or many, associated with smell?
Laurel: I remember the smell of wet seaweed at the beach, hot pine needles on a camping trip, beeswax candles in a Catholic church.
Lynn: The smell of Fleer Fortune bubble gum brings back the clearest childhood memories! And my dad frying bacon and eggs!
6. What are your own beach memories triggered by the senses? Are they of summers on holiday or on the weekend?
Laurel: I remember the sound of crashing waves on the Oregon Coast. The feel of hot sand between my toes in Bora Bora, seagulls flying overhead here in Vancouver. Just the freedom and serenity.
Lynn: I remember my mom hollering at us to stay out of the water after lunch!
7. What is the most pampered you’ve ever felt? A massage? A mani-pedi? What did it feel like?
Laurel: Shiatsu for me for sure and long, hot baths with a crossword puzzle in the morning.
Lynn: I’m not a fan of “pampering” spa things—but once, when I was in a lot of pain, a physiotherapist massaged my neck and head and I thought I was in heaven!
8. What are memories of travels when you were small?
Laurel: I remember camping trips with family and putting up our tent.
Lynn: Spending time at Sandy Cove in West Vancouver with my grandmother is a clear and vivid memory.
9. Does a song trigger a memory?
Laurel: I grew up watching Walt Disney movies and when I went to Disneyland I felt quite emotional to hear ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ played on the loudspeakers. I remember loving ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ when I was in my 20s. We were flying over the Outback in Australia and an English singer Michael Ball was on my headphones, singing ‘Love, Love Changes Everything’. I was without words.
Lynn: The song that triggers a memory is “Splish Splash (I was taking a bath.)” It was playing on our transistor radios as we all lay on the beach at English Bay. Every 15 minutes or so the DJ would tell us to roll over and the whole beachload of kids would roll over at once!
10. Was there a movie you watched growing up that you wanted to see over and over because it really stayed with you?
Laurel: I felt that way about ‘South Pacific’ and remember saving my tears in a jar to show Mom how much I wanted to go again.
Lynn: I wanted to watch “Hans Christian Andersen” over and over again. I loved the music and I had a crush on Danny Kaye!
11. What was your most embarrassing moment?
Laurel: I always wanted to be blond and my Mom finally bleached my hair because I whined. But my hair turned orange (and then green after we dyed it brown again.)
Lynn: My embarrassing moment also involved my hair. I decided to dye it red—with food colouring. I walked home with a boy I was trying to impress and it rained. My face and jacket were covered in dye as I ran home to face the wrath of my mother.
12. Have you ever felt drawn to a place in the world? Did you get to go? What are some senses you experienced?
Laurel: I felt awed by the elegance of Versailles, in France.
Lynn: I have always been drawn to Peru. I love the history, the culture, the people and the land. It’s wonderful.
13. What are your memories of a group of people gathered together somewhere?
Laurel: I remember the people in a ferry waiting room in Wales, waiting for the 2 am. night ferry to Ireland. Everyone a possible character in a novel.
Lynn: I remember going to pow wows with my dad. I loved the drumming and the ceremony and the dancing.
14. Have you ever had an experience that filled you with exhilaration ? What is the visual that goes with that memory?
Laurel: My husband and I snorkeled with black-tipped sharks in Bora Bora. I remember the sight of their fins circling us.
Lynn: I jumped out of an airplane in Cabo San Lucas, attached to a professional jumper. I liked it so much I went again the next day!
15. What have you experienced from another culture?
Laurel: I attended a tea ceremony in Japan and an Irish seisiún singing party.
Lynn: Travelling around Peru, I learned to not be an ugly tourist. I learned to ask before taking photos of people and not to ask kids why they were not in school. Other cultures have other ways and we tourists are often too curious and too critical. I learned to just enjoy everyone and everything and to accept the unique differences I experienced.
16. What stunning vistas have you seen?
Laurel: I will always remember Mount Pahia in Bora and Mount Otemanu. The classic postcard mountains and the uncanny blue of the lagoon. But I also remember the snow on Grouse Mountain here in the winter.
Lynn: The most stunning vista for me was flying home to Northern Manitoba in our small plane. There were no lights below as we were far into the wilderness. The stars were magnificent—and the northern light were at their best. Suspended in the moment, we felt privileged to be there.
17. Did you have a summer job during university or when you were a teenager?
Laurel: I worked at an ice cream parlour, scooping ice cream cones and making sandwiches with pickles and crushed potato chips.
Lynn: My summer jobs were usually in my parents’ jewellery store. I eventually got a job at Woodward’s Department store. I worked in various departments all through art school. The most memorable summer job was when I worked as a waitress at Oilcan Harry’s—a raucous Vancouver nightclub. I have stories from that time that you can’t make up!
18. What is a decadent food memory involving taste?
Laurel: I remember hot fudge sundaes and chocolate fondues.
Lynn: One of my favourite decadent foods was and is roasted marshmallows!
19. Did you ever have a picnic at night with a bonfire?
Laurel: I remember roasting marshmallows and the sight of embers lifting into the air and the smell of wet ashes when we put the fire out before we went home.
Lynn: I was at many beach parties and remember some very late ones. This is when we started drinking cheap wine and bringing our guitars. One year, there was fluorescent algae in the water and splashing made a spray of fireworks. This went well with wine and music!
20. Do you remember the stars at night? Where were you?
Laurel: I remember sitting in a hammock my father made outside and staying up all night with my girlfriend Lonnie, watching shooting stars and counting them.
Lynn: Aside from the stars we saw from our plane, I do remember the clear, starry nights at the beach when I was little. We’d lie on blankets and hope to see a shooting star. Laurel and I have some similar memories!
21. Do you remember learning how to ride a bike? What was your first bike like?
Laurel: I always wanted a horse when I was little and pretended my bike was a horse. Her name was ‘Queenie.’
Lynn: My dad taught me to ride a bike. I didn’t get one until I was 12! After that, I was gone. I rode everywhere—from North Van to Stanley Park—I felt the kind of freedom you experience when you can finally drive a car.
22. What is your favourite comfort food?
Laurel: Mine is Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Or Ripple potato chips. Or peanut butter.
Lynn: Favourite comfort food? Beef stew on mashed spuds. Ooh…and Kentucky fried chicken!
23. Have you ever been so overwhelmed with something so beautiful you felt emotional?
Laurel: I cried when I went into the room full of Botticelli paintings in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Lynn: I cry at parades! I don’t know why. Maybe it’s seeing all the children and all the colourful artwork on costumes and floats that does it. I always think that it’s “the world” marching by. It overwhelms me.
24. Do you have a memory that combines a number of sounds?
Laurel: I remember the bells and the buzzing Vespas after a rain in Florence. Horse hooves on cobblestones under our hotel window. You can have combined sound memories at home too. What are they?
Lynn: Going to the Pacific National Exhibition with the sounds of the rides, the sights of all the people and the smell of cotton candy comes to mind.
25. Do you remember eating something for the first time? Where were you and what was it?
Laurel: I remember poi in Hawaii.
Lynn: I ate pizza for the first time when I was around 10!
26. Have you ever learned a new language? What was it and why did you learn it?
Laurel: My friend Margaret, in New Zealand, has taught me some Maori words and signs her emails ‘Arohanui’ and ‘Kia Kaha’.
Lynn: I learned Spanish when I was in my 50s. I wanted to be able to go to Peru and work with the Medical Missions, which I did. I love this beautiful and expressive language!
27. Do you have a memory of dancing? Where did you used to go or go now to dance? What kind of dancing do you like?
Laurel: I will always miss dancing to disco music.
Lynn: Dancing at school sock hops was always a struggle. I was glad that my dad had taught me how to waltz and two-step.
28. What do you like to cook or bake that brings back memories?
Laurel: I have a recipe for a decadent rum cake that I first tasted at a work night dinner with a group of teacher friends. I got the recipe and made it for my soon-to-be husband on our first date. He grins when I make it for any occasion now and reminds me that my rum cake was one of the things that won him over.
Lynn: My favourite food to cook is salmon. Since we moved to Vancouver, we have been able to buy the best salmon and I’ve learned how to cook it with a special spice and a coating that leaves it a melt-in-your mouth experience!
29. Do you have sleepover memories?
Laurel: My friend Karen and I did a 24-hour binge-watch of the first season of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.
Lynn: My first sleepover was at my friend, Janet’s place. We had to keep quiet and stay away from her dad. That and the tiny size of her room is all I recall!
30. Have you ever had a vacation with friends? Where did you go? Memories from one of those trips?
Laurel: A group of school teaching friends and I made a group twice a year and went to a cottage by the sea. We ate junk food, played Trivial Pursuit, laughed and ate the most amazing dinners made by friend Karen, who had previously owned a catering company and is still an incredibly talented cook.
Lynn: A vacation with friends took us to Mexico for the first time. We fell in love with Cabo San Lucas and went there for many years—until it became too commercial.
31. Have you ever just done nothing? Totally vegged out? Where?
Laurel: I remember stretching out on the deck of our cabin on the first day of summer, watching the sun stars on the water and sleeping in the sun.
Lynn: It’s hard for me to do nothing. When I was in my early teens, too young for a real job and too old to hang out with my parents, I wanted to disappear. I’d lie on the back lawn under a blanket and pretend I was flying away to another land.
32. Do you have a buddy? Was it a childhood friend or someone now? What do you enjoy doing together?
Laurel: I bonded with my friend Karen over ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and we debrief all the time. My childhood friend Lonnie and I used to watch ‘Rawhide’ together.
Lynn: My friend, Marian and I were the best of chums when we were kids. We rode our bikes everywhere. She was good at math, I was good at English, so we helped each other out. We’re both grandmothers now…and still close.
33. How about snapshots of a lovely experience with an animal?
Laurel: I remember patting a kangaroo on the nose in Australia and holding a boa constrictor in my arms when I invited a snake expert to talk to my class when I was teaching.
Lynn: I bought a little black spaniel for my kids…but, he became mine. Willy would sit on a chair by my drafting table and watch me work. He was a constant in my life and when he died, I could hear the sound of his footsteps and the tinkle of his collar tags for weeks afterwards.