This I Believe

Brianna - Moraga, California
Entered on December 12, 2006
Age Group: Under 18


The last time I tried to bake cookies, I set off two smoke alarms in the back of my house.

While this incident also happens to be a reflection of my lack of cooking skills, I assure you that I have a very legitimate excuse. I was in the other end of the house, immersed in a book: a book so old that the sage green spine was three shades lighter than the inside cover, on which the words, “For Brynn, with love, Cody” were inscribed in fading black ink. Brynn was my great-grandmother, and after Cody, my great-grandfather, gave her Black Beauty, she read it countless times and then packed it away.

Last month, it was discovered in a cardboard box on the rafters of our garage and relocated to the shelves in the largest room in our house.

While some may call this room a library, I do not see it as such, for it contains more than just books. My mom’s collection of old teacups occupies the corner cabinet; my dad’s many black and white photographs are poised between dusty bookends separating Sense and Sensibility from The Three Musketeers.

When I stand in the middle of this room, and I see a hundred years of my family’s memories reflected around me. My eyes travel over the worn covers of books, over the rusted model cars my dad used to make, over the beat up cowboy hat I wore all last summer on my aunt’s ranch in Wyoming. And I realize that memories fade over time, and without these simple memoirs, we would forget some of the best highlights of our lives. This room in my house represents my belief that memories are essential in order to grow. I fell off of my aunt’s gray colt about five times that summer, but I was a better rider a month later. That old hat is a constant reminder of the pain and work I put into those timeless months. It also reminds me that bad memories are essential for growth, and if there were none, there would be nothing to compare to the good memories and make them worthwhile. My life and future would be nothing if I had no morals to build upon, nor standards to live by.

I glance out of the rain-smudged window, and I realize another thing. Reminiscing over the past is comforting, but sinking too deep in it can be troublesome. Often we spend so much time worrying about what has happened to us, that when something new presents itself, we are oblivious to the impact it could have on our lives. Looking out the window, I watch the ever-changing wind sway the lean trees and fully understand Santayana’s saying, “There is no cure for life and death, save to enjoy the interval.” If we are completely occupied with sweating about the past, we forget to live in the present, and the life we’ve been trying so hard to resurrect falls apart, owing to neglect.

And then I glance up at the ceiling, and see smoke weaving its way lazily along the white plaster. And to underline my belief that walking too long in a foggy valley of the past will inevitably run you into a mountain, the shrill beep of a smoke alarm penetrates my pensive mood.

Cursing myself for being a filthy hypocrite to my own morals, I sprint out of the Room of Reminiscence toward the kitchen, burnt cookies, and reality.