Even in our hyper-connected world, the power of place holds us in her grasp.
Think back to your childhood. What tree was it that you climbed over and over again? Or where did your mom or dad take you each weekend that you looked forward to with a giddy wonder? And when you were a teenager, where did your friends hang out on weekends or what was your go-to place for escaping the tyranny of your parents?
Walk into any of those stores now or find that same playground and I bet you'll be whisked back to a time in your mind when things were different and the same. You'll recall that time you ran too fast and fell or the time you fell too fast in love and wanted to run.
Check in online all you want. Become the mayor of any burger joint in the USA. None of that compares to the memory flood you experience when you set foot on your grandfather's farm, looking at trees that don't seem as tall, at a pasture that's not quite as big, or at a barn that's not as scary as you remember.
There are no Google Maps for our memories. We have to go back to where we were when we were who we were to find what we're looking for. We have to walk down memory lane - actually walk there with one foot in front of the other, holding hands with our wife who didn't know us then. And trying to tell her what happened the time you and your cousin built a fort out of chicken wire and cardboard in the thick part of the brush doesn't settle on her mind the same way it does on yours, but you're able to recount the tale as if you and Adam had just constructed the thing yesterday and were planning on a campout tonight.
Pictures surely take us back, too. The ones we can touch, not the ones we swipe. We look at the fading proof that we were somewhere once and soon we can smell the freshly cut branches that the electric company felled so that restoring power wouldn't be so hard the next time it stormed. We remember those cinder blocks so cold in the morning when our bare feet hit them as we walked out side to watch our dad drink coffee while we played with dirty toys left outside to wallow in a puddle on the uneven parts of the patio.
Place informs all of our senses - sight, smell, touch, and taste. We remember asking for the last roll from Mamaw in that great big kitchen and how buttery smooth something tastes when it's made form scratch by someone who can make anything out of nothing. We remember pecan pie on the counter, cooling while we worked our way through creamed corn and moist turkey, waiting until our plates were cleared and the kids' table was clean so we could dig in to that gooey dessert, loaded with sugar and nuts that came from trees just 50 feet away. All that by standing in the middle of a kitchen now empty, my feet planted where table legs once stood to host cousins and uncles and aunts the likes of whom my daughter will never meet.
There are places we have been and places we will go to still. And when we go, let us remember that the way to create memories isn't by videoing every second or snapping pictures of every entree. It's by committing to live in that place in that moment, like we did when we were kids and we went somewhere solely for the sake of going and not for the sake of being able to tell people that we went somewhere. Let us travel unencumbered by devices and expectations that demand memories as social proof of our very existence. Let us create the kind of memories worth recalling in our mind when we long for a place to be that is somewhere we experienced, not just somewhere we went.