I could not have planned a more full trip, nor one more fulfilling from a relational standpoint. Stacked with events involving friends and family, the schedule proved a steady stream of joyous reunions. All was not mere nostalgia though. A number of new experiences provided detours from "memory lane" that remain points of reflection.
Several themes emerged during this trip that deserve treatment here:
1. Old Friendships must be Updated. It is not enough to merely have memories with people. Photo albums and scrapbooks have their place, but the taste for them quickly wanes amidst the possibility of discussing current life events. Images of yesteryear have some value, but the people in those pictures no longer exist; only the people in the present are the people that do. Those that were are not those that are. Stories that start with "remember the time...?" must be eclipsed by ones that begin with "this is what's happening now..."
I had the opportunity to perform this friendship "reboot" on a couple of occasions. It was a great pleasure. In several cases I was treated to full tours of the arenas where these friends work, leaving me completely fascinated by their respective careers. In addition, so little of the past was brought up because there was simply too much happening in the present to cover. These friendships were indeed "updated," and brought current. What a joy.
2. Geography is Sufficient to Induce Memory. Driving through northern California produced a tsunami of recollections. The routes through Sacramento somewhat started this, but it was Interstate 5 north of Sacramento that began to 'crack those flood gates open.' By the time my approach to Redding took me through the towns of Red Bluff (where all my children were born), Cottonwood and Anderson, I was abuzz with visions of "way back then." As I drove through the downtown area of Redding, near Shasta Dam and Whiskeytown Lake, across the Cypress Street bridge or down Hilltop Drive, "the force" was strong in this place. I noticed all that looked the same since I last was here, and all that had drastically changed.
Some roads were as easy to navigate as if I had never left, yet others left me somewhat 'turned around.' I noticed some buildings that had stood since my childhood, yet other new structures seemed glaringly out of place. The palm trees down the center of Hilltop Drive gave the whole area a different look. This whole "hot/cold" combination of nostalgic sensations could have kept me cruising around the ole' hometown for days.
3. New Experiences make for great Re-creation/re-connection. From hiking to Feather Falls east of Oroville, or playing my first gold course, having these new experiences make for moments of discovery with those loved ones that really should share them with you. Riding a bicycle around Lake Natoma or sauntering casually through Old Sacramento facilitated opportunities to point out to a mother, father or sister something new and neat.
"Look at that! Isn't that cool?"
Such discoveries are meant to be made with loved ones who will share your excitement and exult in your joy. Yet not all new experiences can be shared. At the end of the trip, I enjoyed the annual conference for the American Research Center in Egypt held in Oakland. While I could not take any friends or family with me to this, it nonetheless was filled with sufficient new stimuli to fuel my excited stories upon returning home.
The trip could not have been planned better, and many of the encounters will leave lasting blessings. Would that many be able to enjoy such a time of re-creation and re-connection that offers great comfort to the soul and warmth to the heart.