Keeping memories alive
Everything that happens has the potential to trigger memories. Some events define a moment in time for many people. Other events may mean something to only one person. In all cases, memories stay alive because someone tells the stories over and over.
My mother was our family’s memory keeper. She worked mainly in pictures, creating an album for each of us each year. When I wrote my childhood memoir, the memory keeper mantle passed to my shoulders. Meeting another memory keeper, seeing how they keep and share their stories, is always a treat.
Last week, my husband and I visited the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. The Surf is famous because Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens played their last concert there before boarding a charter plane that crashed shortly after takeoff. The Day the Music Died.
As interesting as seeing where these icons of 50’s music spent their last hours, was meeting Wayne Christgau, Surf historian. Each area in the Surf tour elicited a story about Buddy Holly and a story about Wayne’s life.
Wayne’s first visit to the Surf predates Buddy Holly and it predates his memory. His parents brought him there when he was only three years old so they could dance to Count Basie and his orchestra. The blanket his mother wrapped him in to sleep that night hangs in his office. It’s over 100 years old. Wayne does remember his second visit, when he was seven years old. He remembers a box of colors he couldn’t have, the sandwich and cookies he ate, the feel of his mother’s coat keeping him warm as he fell asleep.
The stories he told were so interesting because they were so vivid and so personal. The Buddy Holly stories are more memorable because Wayne’s stories are part of them.
The Surf Ballroom was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in September 2011. Wayne’s role in keeping the memories of the Surf and Buddy Holly alive were recognized when he was inducted into the Iowa Rock’n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame in 2009.
Every family has stories that are worth keeping. How that happens is unique to each family. I’m curious. How do you preserve your stories? Does your family have a memory keeper? Are the memories kept in pictures, songs, journals, told orally or written down?