Commentary

Thankful for the Memories

November 24, 2022

We’re all blessed with things we don’t deserve. Good health, a loving family, education, friends, and meaningful employment are not always guaranteed for all. However, each of us can look back, make a truthful assessment, and be grateful for something this Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving history.

For more than 400 years, Americans have celebrated a time of giving thanks. No matter the amount of blessing, Thanksgiving happens even during times of upheaval. President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national day to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation.” Now, with Thanksgiving dinner immediately disrupted by Black Friday, how is it that Americans are hungry for even more?

Americans starving for something on Black Friday.

What is our hunger?

I believe America is starved for meaningful connection, not more stuff. With its incessant ads, broadcast social media has actually worsened our condition. Like the temporary dopamine triggered in our brains when someone “likes” our posting, so too is the short term pleasure derived from buying many material possessions. We’re addicted to wanting more, with little gratitude for what’s already important in our lives.

Humans always hunger for meaningful connection.

How to find gratitude.

Looking back makes us feel grateful. Sometimes memories help us recall humble beginnings, making us thankful for where we are now. Other times we look back and are grateful to celebrate past events that would be unachievable today. All memories engage feelings on a spectrum from melancholy to euphoric, each filling us with a spirit of thanksgiving.

Thankful to share memories with those we love.

Thankful memories.

Love letters.
Wedding videos.
Newborn photos of your babies.
Pictures from parties.
Yearbooks and class photos.
Slides from vacation travel.
Recordings of music recitals.
Drawings and notes from your kids.
Video of family gatherings.
Voicemails that changed your life.
Home movie reels.
Ancestral photographs.

Memories of shared experiences are powerful.

The science of memories.

I believe memories are incredibly powerful, even healing. Watching home movies and paging through photo albums makes your brain release oxytocin, the “love hormone.” It’s similar to the joy many experience when watching a cat video. However, memories of shared events strengthen your connections to others, and dramatically increase your gratitude. I believe our shared memories are priceless compared to so many other material items.

Heirloom helps you have gratitude for all your memories.

Are your memories secure?

Humans capture billions of photos from our mobile devices every day. Many of these are lost in a sea of digital clutter. Worse, boxes of printed photos & video on reels, cassettes, and discs are at risk for total loss. I founded Heirloom to connect us with our memories and each other, so we’ll never lack gratitude for past experiences. Heirloom provides a secure network to delightfully exchange memories with those you love, for life.

Lost & Found

Memories from thrift stores, flea markets, and abandoned storage units.

Yosemite Valley, ~1960s

We found this picture of a beautiful couple standing in front of Half Dome, one of Yosemite Valley’s most recognizable landmarks. Yosemite Valley in California sees millions of visitors each year (a record 5 million people visited in 2016!). Even though the park sees so many people, each person typically only sees it once…and it’s always a special memory. This picture was nestled in a collection of photos from all over the world – from California to New Orleans to Paris, Germany, Africa, and more. But despite the awe-inspiring view behind them, the couple seems more entranced with each other than anything around them.

Prom, 1966

The charm and beauty of prom captures the hearts of young men and women across the country every year. For many, it’s their first formal affair, their first step into a glamorous world built only for them. But perhaps more memorable are the days and moments leading up to the ceremony. Before the first song ever plays, ladies are shopping with friends to find the perfect dress, gentlemen are building up the courage to ask for a date, and both are speechless at the first sight of each other. The laughter and smiles found in these moments often planted roots for love to blossom.

Love unbound, circa 1966

Every generation faces unique challenges. To meet them, we stand on the shoulders of our loved ones and become more than they ever could. In time, we do the same for our children, lifting them higher still to achieve what we could only dream of. While we were busying admiring those who guided us, candid memories like this remind us of the care they took to show us the world we live in. Hairstyles and fashion choices come and go. Pop culture changes with the wind. But the excitement that comes from these experiences – whether learning them for the first time or passing them along to the next generation – creates unforgettable feelings that deserve to last forever.

Sharing laughs, circa 1965

Some of our memories are defined by the times. We proudly showed off our bellbottom pants and 8-track tapes, wore loud clothes and big hair, and proved that grunge wasn’t just music, it was a way of life. These were the times of our self-expression. But our most important memories weren’t shaped by self-expression, they were shaped by mutual expression, by the friends who stood beside us. Friends have a way of bringing out the best in us. They help define who we are through the experiences we share. The smiles, the laughs, and even the tears create a bond stronger than time.

Swinging, ~1965

Autumn brings about a time of great change. Like the trees that shed their leaves, we put the summer behind us, trading t-shirts for sweaters and beaches for playgrounds. And it was on the swing sets of our youth that we learned we could touch the clouds if we but yearned to fly. As Robert Frost once told us, “Nothing gold can stay.” Nearly a century later, his words remind us that true beauty lives only in the moment, and those moments are worth remembering.

Riding Giraffes, ~1965

Life has a way of forcing our focus on the future. We plan and schedule and organize and hope that it all helps us get to where we think we want to be. But when the meetings are over and the offices close, we escape to the places that make us forget it all. Places like the Nut Tree in Vacaville, CA, offered retreat to residents and tourists and foreign dignitaries alike. At its height, it was “the ‘go-to’ spot no matter your passions or your age. We all had a place like this, somewhere we could be ourselves among friends that always made us smile.

Change, ~1970s

We often take pictures to capture the moment, to relive the happiness and joy we felt in years past. But when we look back on them decades later, we find that pictures are so much more powerful. They preserve the smiles, of course, but they also chronicle change. We all experience it. The laughter and tears, the wins and the losses, and at every turn we love and mourn and grow. Pictures like this show that as we grow, so too does the world.

Choices, ~1977

Just because we were there together doesn’t mean we had the same experience. We remember things differently because our priorities were different. Some of us let the experience define the memory, while others chose to define it themselves. We often rush through life, bouncing between the big moments and taking ourselves too seriously. We move from one day to the next with little regard for the small moments that fill each one. Meanwhile, those around us are having the time of their lives in every moment they can. So, we have a choice: we can wait for the memorable moments to find us, or we can create the times that are worth remembering.
When you look back at your own pictures, do you see a defining moment, or a moment defined?

Transformations, 1994

As we get older, holidays tend to take on new meanings for us. New Year’s Eve becomes less about the party and more about spending another year with friends, Christmas less about getting gifts and more about giving them, and we understand the things we’re thankful for during Thanksgiving more than ever. But no matter how old we are, the excitement of putting on a costume for Halloween never changes. Whether we’re giving the candy or getting it, Halloween allows us to transform into whatever we want. We can be spooky ghosts wrapped in sheets or wear plastic teeth and threaten to suck the blood from our friend’s necks.

Showing off, 1996

We all have our own hobbies. Some of us like golfing with friends, or painting a comforting picture surrounded by idyllic scenery. Others enjoy playing music, writing stories, or woodworking. But almost everyone has spent at least a day on the water with nothing but a fishing pole and the hope of catching the big one. Whether you’re bragging about your amazing hole-in-one or that giant fish that got away, we all love sharing our adventures. That’s why memories like this are so important. Our friends won’t always believe us when we tell them how big that fish really was, but they can’t argue when we show them the picture.

Camaraderie, 1954

When we remember significant events in our lives, we remember the friends who supported us the most. As we get older, these memories become more caricatures than factual, and many of the people we enjoyed being with are lost in the fog of our minds. Military members meet a significant amount of people all the time. Whether through the constant rotation of personnel through a unit or the many classes that provide networking opportunities, service-members often remember events more often than names or faces. But when we look back on pictures like this, a flood of memories comes rushing through. Suddenly, we’re a part of the conversations all over again. We see the faces and hear the laughter and we remember the smiles that carried us through those important times.

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Forever enjoy with friends and family.