The Impact of Blissful Memories
In the first part of this story, I described my family’s special Christmas preparation during my childhood and the lasting memories associated with it. In the following, I recount a similar blissful moment on a summer day, years later, perhaps on my ninth or tenth birthday, when I heard my name being called outside my room. I opened the age-worn wooden door and stepped out into the hall. A few feet away, I recognized an unusual object on the second-floor foyer. At the top of the stairs stood a shiny, new, cherry-red bicycle. My maternal grandfather is visiting and pointed to it with a smile and a look of contentment; a broad-shouldered civil engineer, he wore a gray flannel suit, a felted hat, and a worn leather satchel. He had probably brought this marvel from afar by train. My heart jumped out of my chest in thrilled surprise.
“Is this for me…. a bicycle?” I squawked. Bouncing with joy,..
“Is this for me…. a bicycle?” I squawked. Bouncing with joy, yet doubtful I could believe my eyes, I stared at the bike with awe. I saw my mother grin, her curly shoulder-length light hair wiggling as her tall, graceful figure swayed from side to side. She had likely orchestrated the event with her father. I finally hugged my intimidating grandfather, trying to contain my trepidation and excitement within my thudding heart.
The two-wheel cherry-red horse would become my best friend, first giving me access to a newfound freedom I had not previously known. Later that week, my father would instruct me on how to maintain it by polishing the frame and spokes weekly and oiling the gears occasionally, and I did so, helping it keep its shine, sparkle, and my pride for a long time. Each Saturday that followed, my father and I would go on errands with our two-wheelers and the toolbox I had received for Christmas a few years back. I earnestly upheld my appointed role of my father’s assistant in all domestic repairs and runs to the lumber and hardware stores.
The gift and enjoyment of bike riding remained with me until today. I enjoy long rides and weeklong travel adventures with my husband now, who similarly cherishes fond memories of the childhood freedom he acquired from his first red-and-white bicycle that was, in his eyes at the time, the best-looking one in town. Bikes have always been a part of my life as a mode of transportation, but also as a way to discover the world at a different pace.
The concept of the importance of childhood happiness is not new to most people. Special moments are what we remember most. Both material and immaterial presents received during early years are not always so striking but become abundantly meaningful later in life. For example, the empowerment my father gave me, appointing me as his assistant in repairs with his carefully crafted toolbox, taught me survival skills that most girls I know did not receive. Likewise, I can still hear my grandfather, the civil engineer, pointing during our train rides and describing the construction projects he had collaborated on, like hydraulic generation plants, large buildings, and bridges. My sisters and I didn’t easily grasp his reports of hydraulics, energy generation, or steam engines; we felt intimated by this knowledge but still received and digested all the information he provided. He probably didn’t know any other way to talk with us, but he always had stories about new inventions or other projects. His annotations have often come in handy, as I’m now married to an engineer; I listen to similar enlightenment, facts, and explicit avowals daily.
Each of my merry memories helped build a solid foundation that has enabled me to endure life’s hardships. A professor from Le Moyne College at Syracuse, Dr. Krystine I. Batcho, states, “Recent research suggests that the impression of having had a happy childhood is associated with higher social connectedness, enhanced sense of self, and healthy behaviors. Adverse impressions of childhood are related to greater difficulty in relationships, self-insight, and dealing with distress. Believing that you were cheated of the things, experiences, love, or acceptance that every child deserves can negatively impact relationships and feelings of adequacy and belonging.” (2)
Airing our dirty laundry has its place, but as most of us may know intuitively, building on positive recollections and remembrance is pivotal and crucial in developing a strong and healthy self. Focusing on remembering these positive and decisive occasions by repeating them in our own lives defines the ritual and importance of holidays, special family meals, or shared walks. Throughout my life, I have focused on the recollection of special moments to help me fall asleep or mend an aching heart. Ultimately, we all have a “Cherry-red Bicycle” in our past; keeping it vibrant and shiny is vital to our emotional wellness.
This article by Nicolette Francey Asselin, MD appears in ReFlex-Ions. The author is a medical writer who has published works in magazines such as Prevention Magazine and has authored a few books. This story will be featured in her upcoming book: Resilience, Building Strength.
1. Translated from: “O Tannenbaum” by Ernst Anschütz
2. Krystine I Batcho, PH.D, “Childhood Happiness: More Than Just a Child’s Play,” Psychology Today, January, 12, 2012.
3. Nicolette Francey Asselin, M.D. “The Red Carpet of Today’s Aging”
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