The sun is streaming painfully into my eyes. It’s bright and brilliant orange, kissing tree limbs and the tops of grasses as it makes its way to me. I tip my new 10-gallon straw cowboy hat down over my eyes to find shade.
This morning’s heat is intense. Today will be a candle-melter, and not good for the chocolate bar tucked between the seats in my car. I may come back to a bowl of soup.
Walking on the deck in my pointy-toed boots, I hear the sound of cowboys about to go head-to-head in a quick draw. The only things missing are spurs and a six-shooter. I’m not normally a cowboy kind of guy, but I love watching it on Yellowstone. It makes me want to pretend.
Finding the Impossible
In 1980, two days before my first wedding, which was to occur in my parents’ backyard on a lake, I decided it would be cool to surprise the bride with a ride down the aisle in a horse and buggy. “But where can I possibly find a horse and buggy?” I wondered. Nothing was in the phone book, and the Internet did not exist. So I started thinking about where there might be an abundance of buggies. I got in the car, drove out to Amish country, and started looking for farms with buggies. I’d stop, knock on the door, and tell them what I was looking for. Though people were friendly every time, these were tools they needed for their farms or to conduct their lives. And the more doors that shut, the more determined I was to find a horse and buggy. I had set my mind on it, and I was not going to stop looking.
Down the Road
The next stop, a nice farmer told me that a cousin down the road had just taken delivery on a new buggy that had never been used. Soon I showed up at his door and explained my desire to make the wedding special. I told him I wanted to decorate the buggy with flowers and bring my bride down the aisle with her father. I offered to pay him, though I did not have much money to offer. He started thinking, and I felt a rejection coming, but instead he said, “I have a friend with a truck. I’ll deliver the truck with the buggy and my finest Tennessee Walker to you two hours before the wedding on Saturday. The only payment I want is a photo of the bride in the buggy.” We shook on it.
A Liquid Chuckle
No one knew about this surprise, so we unloaded the horse and buggy, I decorated it with flowers, and right before going down the aisle, it was sprung on my wife-to-be. Soon, as I was standing at the front, “Here Comes the Bride” was played on an accordion. Next, the carriage with the bride slowly trotted to the side of the crowd, who gasped in awe. She walked up, and we were married by a minister who was an old family friend. After the ceremony, we sawed a log together, an old German tradition to signify working on life’s struggles together. One of the most memorable moments was when the horse took a leak in the middle of the ceremony. Everyone chuckled.
I can remember that day in great detail.
Just this past week, two friends of mine flew from their home in California to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where they picked up two amazing new Corvettes. They then drove them across the country side by side, stopping at all the fun tourist attractions along the way. Not only was it a lifetime dream to own a couple of cool cars like that, they ended up making a memory that they say is one of their best lifetime memories ever. They could have easily bought the cars at a local dealer, but instead they built a memory.
Though memories are often accidental, life is about orchestrating memories. Where would we be without family vacations, celebrations, and special moments?
My dad taught me about memory-making by example. My head is filled with childhood memories of camping in our Airstream; getting stranded on a narrow mountain pass to Vail, Colorado, and hitchhiking into town; and having the convertible top slashed and all of our things stolen. We camped along Lake Erie across from Cedar Point, we boated and skied, we learned to sail, we even did Power Squadron courses in severe weather, and we often went to the amusement park. But memories did not stop there.
Sitting in a Circle
Many years later Dad built a tepee on his property, and we would have dessert there when guests were in town visiting the Adirondacks. We would sing around the campfire, bang drums, and tell ghost stories. That tradition will continue now that Dad is gone.
Ring the Breakfast Triangle
My father also built a tiny cabin with a wood stove and nothing inside but a table and chairs. It was called the Trapper Cabin, was decorated with antiques and old animal skins, and the first or last morning when visiting his house (called a camp), he would put on his chef’s hat and cook eggs, bacon, and pancakes for visiting guests. It was a tradition that lasted 30 years and made lots of memories.
Traditions and memory-making are hard work. Looking back, I realize just how hard my parents worked to create memories for us. It was worth it. So many people don’t have a lot of memories.
The Most Important Yet
Consider that this may be the most special summer ever. Many of us have been distanced from our families, unable to travel, and now that we are free and can see them, it’s a time to make special memories. Especially knowing things could change without notice and we might not have a chance to make more memories.
What memories will you make for yourself and your family this spring and summer?
Where can you go?
What can you do?
What new traditions can you create?
It’s worth the effort. When everything else is gone, our memories last forever.
PS: Last weekend I made memories with a dozen or so painters, painting together in Utopia, Texas. We painted on private farms and saw some stunning scenery! Thanks to Guy Morrow for organizing it. We’re keeping you in our prayers.
Some of my best memories have taken place at the painters’ events I’ve created. I’ve made hundreds of friends and a handful of best friends at events like the Plein Air Convention, which is a gathering of hundreds of artists who come to learn, paint together in a beautiful spot, and play (May 17-21 in Santa Fe). I have memories of painting in amazing places with them, and memories of silly stage moments like Plein Air Wars, the game show we’re doing on stage this year. We still have seats (highly unusual because normal years were sold out at this point), and for this year, we are providing an opportunity for online attendance since some cannot make it to Santa Fe. www.pleinairconvention.com
When I was in my early 30s I went to the Adirondacks for the first time. The area became my photography muse, and later my muse for painting. Its beauty is unique, unlike any other place in America. There are 6 million protected acres of stunning scenery. I’ll be making memories and friendships there in June when I hold my annual spring artist retreat. There are no lessons, just painting and play with old and new friends all day for a week. We have lots of fun, and at this point we have a handful of seats left. It’s all-inclusive, one price for lodging, meals, and the event. www.paintadirondacks.com
Memories will also occur painting in New Zealand this September. I have a few seats left. www.paintingnewzealand.com
I HAVE GREAT MEMORIES OF MY WONDERFUL FRIEND AND MENTOR, JOHN STOBART. JOHN PASSED AWAY LAST WEEK. HE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST ARTISTS OF OUR TIME AND ONE OF THE VERY FEW HOW WAS A MILLIONAIRE FROM HIS ART SALES. JOHN WAS ONE OF A KIND, GENEROUS, SUPPORTIVE, AND A TRUE FRIEND. HIS SENSE OF HUMOR, LIKE EVERYTHING HE DID, WAS A DELIGHT. CERTAINLY A WELL-LIVED LIFE!
THERE ARE MANY LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM JOHN STOBART. AS A MASTER PAINTER HE WAS AT THE TOP OF THE LIST OF MARINE PAINTERS. GROWING UP IN DERBYSHIRE, ENGLAND, HE WENT TO LIVERPOOL AT A YOUNG AGE AND WAS OVERWHELMED BY THE BUSTLING HARBOR. ONE OF HIS LAST PAINTINGS WAS OF OF LIVERPOOL HARBOR AND IN THE PAINTING IS AN IMAGE OF HIMSELF AS A BOY ARRIVING THERE. HE PAINTED WELL INTO HIS 9th DECADE ON THIS PLANET. HE TRAVELED THE WORLD AND LIVED MOST OF HIS LIFE AND LONG CAREER IN MASSACHUSETTS AND FLORIDA.
VISIT ANY YACHT CLUB, SEAPORT MUSEUM, PRESTIGIOUS MARITIME GALLERY, HISTORY BOOK, AND MORE YOU WILL SEE PRINTS AND ORIGINALS OF JOHN’S AMAZING WORK. I HAVE BEEN SO WONDERFULLY PRIVILEGED TO BE HIS FRIEND AND STUDENT. HE LOVED TO PAINT EN PLEIN AIR.
I am part of the Plein Air this coming week. Have not yet received the link to it. Just wondering when it will be posted.
What a wonderful “Memories” Sunday! My memories are wonderful, but living in the NOW , with my son, Fred, are in the daily activities he does for me….he takes care of everything and treats me like a queen. These are the memories I have everyday. At 91 years of age, I don’t know how much time I have left, but Fred will have the memory of his mom, painting everyday. Thank you, Eric, for the wonderful memories I have of you.
Thank you Eric for reminding me of the great memories my parents gave my sister and myself.
I can see you standing there in those boots and that hat…This is another fine example of EXPOSITORY writing..You know Eric if you were to write a book, based on your real ife and the beautiful fantasy that I’m sure you can weave together..I would buy it! You give us not just the scene but the emotions eliceted from that scene with a clear yearning to bring back the past for just a moment more..I so look forward to your writings ! Thank you again! A FAN !
Good morning and happy Sunday. That was a nice walk through some of your memories. Good memories are a reflection of a well lived life and those difficult memories serve as reminders – trophies that we made it through to continue on with happy memory making. Here’s to creating a life full of love, joy and priceless memories!
So true! Love your Sunday morning stories! Thank you.
This has been my favorite one so far. Very touching. I tell my granddaughter all the time about making memories. The young ones need to put their phones down to make memories. Thanks again!
Some of us have very few wistful memories from childhood, for one reason or another. It is always a delight to hear about yours – and for those of you who do have them, though! And we have, indeed, tried to fill to the brim with good memories the lives of our children, grandchildren, and ourselves. That is a gift in and of itself.
Thank you, Eric, you always speak of something significant.
One of my favorite memories was Pop and I driving to the post office on Sundays in early autumn. There was nothing moving in that one horse town except a few neighbors doing the same thing and a few pieces of paper being blown around the street in the cool morning air.
Now the horse has left!
Love the work you are doing for Plain Air painting. But I just wonder how you ever find time to do any painting?
You’re “coffee” today put me in the mood to dig up memories. Mine are mainly stunning things I’ve seen……sunsets, the sun breaking though on a stormy day (Utah), Bryce Canyon, our Washington mountains on a sunny day. And then as I was remembering…….I see that I also remember smells. Pine trees, fir trees, grass after a rain……my father’s after shave.
Thanks Eric, great tips on creating memories and why they are so important!
What wonderful visual wedding memories! Thank you for the smiles!
I just hope you don’t think Yellowstone is anything like real cowboy life. Surely…….
Enjoy reading your coffee morning.
Sounds wonderful…….wish i could be there…..also wishing everyone a Marvellous, exciting and productive time.