There’s a difference. Mementos are the things we hold onto to remind us of the memories within our souls. They, in and of themselves, are no more than things and yet the emotional attachments we form with them can be very real. In the 18 months since my mother passed I have spent nearly every morning drinking from a mug that I gave her a few years ago. It reminds me of her every day and I’ve grown incredibly attached to this morning routine. Attachments can be comforting. They can also be damaging. In this case, I knew the fragility of the memento I used to retain this particular memory would eventually be tested. No one has the same coffee cup forever because coffee cups are made of ceramic and people are made of human and humans drop things. When this inevitability did finally come to pass this weekend, my initial reaction was, well, not good. It wasn’t anger I felt, but fear. The empty fear that I would have to say goodbye to those mornings and to those memories. As I tried to hide my tears by chopping an unnecessary amount of onion, my love worked hastily to try and repair my mug, my memories. I assured him it was fine, not something to worry about, it’s just a mug. But he knows me, knows my soul and would not be deterred.
Then it happened. The radio started…
The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind and he was willin’ to make a deal.
When he came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot.
And the devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said: “Boy let me tell you what!”
I couldn’t help but smile. Everyone has songs that remind them of a specific place or person. This Charlie Daniels classic does both for me. It takes me back to Schlitterbahn as a youth, a water park my mother and I went to every summer for as long as I can remember. Schlitterbahn was our thing. It was a yearly tradition for just the two of us and part of the tradition was that we had to spend the entire day behaving like children (this went on until I was 18). I remember one year “The Devil went down to Georgia” came on the loudspeaker and my mom and I sang and danced along like, well, children. Until, of course, it got to the end and the line was edited as “I done told you once you son of a gun..” and Jeanie loudly corrected the loudspeaker, “I done told you once you son of a bitch, I’m the best there’s ever been.”
Back in 2013, I’m now laughing through my tears, trying to explain the significance of this well-timed tune to my person. If ever there are signs we are supposed to take heed of in this life, “The Devil went down to Georgia” coming through my radio at that moment was one of them. Mementos will come and go, but there are an infinity of memories that can never be broken. And even the most delicate of mementos can be repaired and repurposed. My person, who cares more for my tender little heart than I’ll ever understand, glued my mug back together piece by piece and we are going to use it as a little planter. Thanks to him, we can now grow new memories out of the old. Jeanie would like that.