Memorable Moments Make Life Meaningful — Here’s How to Remember More of Them
It was the big day: February 17, 2020.
My kids had been asking for what seemed like ages when we were going to go back to Disney, but the cost seemed prohibitive now that we had to pay for two children.
So I spent all of 2019 saving enough money and credit card points to get annual passes and have enough points leftover for hotel stays. It was hard work and there were times when I thought I wouldn’t pull it off, but somehow I did.
I was taking my family back to Disney.
We decided that we would first activate our passes with a week long vacation. The idea was to get maximum value out of our passes by having one long vacation in February 2020, one long vacation in early 2021, and some three-day weekends sprinkled in between (the virus has impacted these plans).
February 17 was the first day of a week long vacation. I woke up at 6:30 to pack the car. Fortunately, our youngest — who was three months old at the time — slept the whole car ride and my older kids (six and four years) watched Monsters Inc for the first time.
Unfortunately, the next few hours were pretty stressful. There was way more traffic than I expected at the park, and navigating to the Magic Kingdom required all my focus and attention. My kids at this point were still happy (“Look dad, I saw Thor on the side of that bus!”), but were starting to get impatient.
Their impatience grew as we got to the ticket line. This was the only day we were going to need to stand in the ticket line — but it also happened to be Presidents Day. This meant that the usually long lines were even longer.
After the excruciating wait at the ticket line, we faced another agonizing wait at the monorail before we could finally enter the park.
I live in Gainesville, Florida — about an hour and a half from Disney. We had left at 7 am and didn’t get into the park until close to noon.
Fortunately, everyone kept a (relatively) good attitude and maintained faith that we could still turn it all around and have a great day — and we did.
We went on It’s a Small World and while in line my son said he hoped we would get a blue boat…and we got a blue boat! We went on the carousel, the magic teacups (we went slower than I normally would on account of our three month old), Dumbo, the Little Mermaid, and we met Merida from the Pixar movie Brave.
But the truly memorable moment came in the car as we were leaving the park. I asked everyone what their favorite moment was and my son replied “seeing Thor!” My wife — with a puzzled expression — replied that we hadn’t seen Thor. I chuckled, shook my head and said “he means on the side of the bus on the way in.” We both started laughing.
It had taken such great effort for us to rally and turn the day around — our son was content with spotting a picture of an Avenger on a bus.
The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory — Chinese Proverb
This is a memory that I know I’ll treasure for a long time, but it’s worth asking the question: How do I remember it so well?
The optimistic answer is that the moment itself was just so memorable that I was virtually guaranteed to be able to remember it effortlessly. Unfortunately, I think this view is way off. My life has contained far too many forgotten moments that were just as “memorable” as this one.
The real reason I remember this so well (and why I can seem to remember so many details from that day) is because I wrote it all down.
There’s an old phrase that goes something to the effect of “the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory” — and its true.
I’ve made a habit of bringing my journal with me on vacations. At the end of every day, I write up a recap of the day. I used to do this long form, but I’ve realized that a bulleted list of short sentences is faster and easier.
With the ability to take pictures with our phones, many of us have been tricked into thinking that a massive collection of photos would be sufficient to preserve precious memories. In my experience this isn’t true.
Pictures are great and they can jog many pleasant memories through visual cues, but they are taken without the benefit of hindsight. When you snap a photo, it’s difficult to know if you are capturing a magical moment, or a mundane moment of a magical day. When you record events in a journal, you get to practice the truly human art of reflection: What do you think was worth remembering?
As I was writing this story in October of 2020, I went out and told it to my wife again. It was amazing that as I walked her through it, I was able to jog her memory of details she had clearly forgotten. By the time I got to the punchline, she knew where it was going and was nodding in knowing anticipation.
We got another good laugh out of what has become a treasured memory.
Your life is a series of moments and remembering the best ones can lead to enormous joy. Some of them you’ll be able to remember without help, but it turns out that all you need to make memories last a lifetime is a pen and paper.