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Memories are the Real Prize

When I received it, it seemed like the most beautiful thing in the world. This, this is what I had worked so hard for! As I held it in my hands, I thought it was stunning.

When you have a goal, you work hard to achieve it, and when you eventually succeed, you celebrate. Sometimes that celebration comes with an award that further memorializes your achievement. Trophies, plaques, medals – they all do this and they are prized in the moment. Often times they later go on a shelf where you can see them and remember back to a time when you performed at your very best. Needless to say, every award has a story. As we recall those stories, we are reminded of the sweet taste of success and perhaps the countless mishaps on our road there. But what is the “shelf life” of these awards?

Recently, I visited my parent’s home and in a box, in the pump house, were my childhood trophies. My family was very active in 4H and my sister and I showed horses. We dedicated summer after summer to this activity and some of my most precious memories arise from this endeavor. When I rummaged through the box and unwrapped each award, I was transported back in time. Most of the trophies I had forgotten about but two in particular really stood out. They were awarded for a particularly large achievement. I actually can remember much about each occasion. I’m grateful for those memories because those are the real prize. The trophies are just trophies. They are dusty, dated, and somewhat nondescript but the memories…the memories are everything!

I wish I had done more to capture the memories back when the event was fresh. I have a newspaper clipping with a photo but I wasn’t much for journaling and Facebook was a very distant flicker of an idea at the time. The memories I have now are not as detailed as they would have been at the time and yet, they are worth saving and I shall do that. One of the beautiful things about memories is that they don’t take up much space, unlike a box of awards. However, they are perishable if left solely in our brains. It’s best to write out our memories or record ourselves as we share them. We can then add rich detail that cannot be represented by an object – a trophy, medal, or plaque.

Those trophies of my youth are on to their next life. My sister found someone who can repurpose them. That’s a much better fate than a landfill. I felt a little bittersweet as I let them go but I knew it was time. What’s the point of having a dusty box taking up space? I have the memories and they are so much sweeter. And, I expect the next award winner will feel the same sense of achievement and joy as I did when handed the shiny hardware. These idle objects will generate even more memories and that’s a pretty sweet thought too.

So what has been your approach to tending to old trophies, awards, ribbons, medals? What do you do with those childhood artifacts? What did you do to preserve the memories?