Mark Ballard

Storing memories

I’m a very visual person, so I envision my memories as if they are stored away in various boxes in my mind. On the outside of the boxes, printed in large letters, are the words that indicate what they contain. Stacked tall and packed full, they remain deep in the storage unit of my mind.

The lids stay closed, keeping my memories tightly in place until someone or something crosses my path reminding me that the box is there. A search ensues until the right box is located. I then take it down from a shelf, dust it off and remove the lid.

Memories float out from the box and swirl around me. They invite me to visit with them for a while. I always immediately accept their invitation. I keep them out of the box as long as time allows, and then reluctantly secure them tightly back within the confines of the box until their next visit.

Recently, our son, Blake, came home to help Debra and me do some things around the house. What could have been a boring weekend of chores ended up unleashing more memories than we could ever have imagined.

First on our list was replacing mulch around some flower beds. Blake and I hauled bag after bag of mulch to the appropriate areas, ripped into the bags and began the process of evenly spreading out the pine chips. I noticed we were working right beside some square stepping stones. My mind found the box of memories that took us all the way back to that hot summer day many years ago when we used a shovel to dig away the clumps of grass to set the stones into place.

“Do you remember when we put these down about 20 years ago?” I asked Blake.

“Remember? How could I ever forget? Mom went shopping while we worked all day,” Blake responded. We smiled. Still spreading mulch, I wondered how many times we had walked on those stepping stones over the years.

After another trip to the store to purchase more bags of mulch, we decided to pick up some lunch. It was a beautiful day and our patio begged us to eat outside. Pushing up to the table, the almost century-old red bricks arranged in herringbone style were under our feet.

“Just think of the things we’ve hosted on this brick patio!” I said to Debra and Blake. Before I could even get the words out of my mouth, that particular memory box was opened and a variety of parties and gatherings flashed by my mind in full color.

Although our parties were more formal occasions, we assume the ones Blake hosted as a teenager were definitely of a casual nature. We really don’t know because we were never invited — since we were always out of town.

At some point in the afternoon, Blake noticed a very large flowering bush by the back corner of our house. “That is huge!” he exclaimed. “I don’t remember it being that large.”

I could remember planting it many years ago and it was tiny. “It probably doesn’t remember you being as tall either,” I told Blake.

As the gorgeous autumn day slowly surrendered to dusk, our weekend with Blake was quickly coming to an end. All three of us took a minute to perch on a short brick wall surveying our accomplishments in the backyard.

“Look!” Blake said pointing to the large bush we had recently discussed. “Look at that huge monarch butterfly!”

It was absolutely beautiful and effortlessly floated through the air from blossom to blossom. Blake pulled out his phone and took a slow motion video of the butterfly. It was amazing to watch!

Time passes and things change but the memories in my boxes remain forever young and vivid. I was grateful that I was able to add a few more this weekend. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the butterfly, so I carefully placed it in a new memory box and closed it. One day when I need a smile, I can take it back out and watch it fly.

More with Mark

Limited reservations remain for holiday wreath classes with Mark at Macon’s Hobby Lobby. Learn to make a Colorful Whimsy wreath Oct. 18. Learn to make a Naughty or Nice wreath with traditional colors on Oct. 22 and 24. Photos are available on Mark’s Facebook page. Email or call 478-757-6877 for registration information. Cost $100.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.