Trophies to Give Away, Memories to Keep

That's me on the left... in all my golden glory
That’s me on the left… in all my golden glory

It’s funny how memory works.

Last fall, in a fit of de-cluttering, I came across a storage bin full of old trophies: awards from various run/bike/swim events I’d competed in, cross-country ski loppets, mountain bike races. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, endurance sports were a big part of my life. There were academic awards, too, my Ontario scholar plaque, a couple of prizes from the short time I spent as a Toastmaster.

I had to ask myself what I was keeping all this stuff for. In comparison to the richness of my memories, this ‘hardware’ looked cheap and ridiculous. Knick-knacks. They weren’t even on display, they were sitting out here in the damp.

I picked up a trophy and read the plaque: Scanlon Creek Mountain Bike Race 1995, 1st place. The plastic cyclist perched on top was now riding a little askew. 1995. That would have been the summer we bought our first house, this house, the summer when I became pregnant with my first child. I remember one particular day during that time with absolute clarity. I was pedaling my road bike up a steep hill on a back-country road, something I was very good at. I was inexplicably short of breath, not able to get enough air in, and suddenly it occurred to me: “Could I be.. is it possible… am I pregnant?” This epiphany, this life-altering moment, came while I was on a bike, doing something I did well, powering a bike straight uphill.

I put the trophy back down.

My husband helped me take photos of my collection – and his, too. We chose a handful of trophies to keep and trashed the rest. There is more work to do here, more paring down , and there remains this lingering question–what to do with those memory-charged objects, the ones that remind you of something important that trigger a memory of say, the moment you realized you were pregnant with your first child?

Because there is no denying it. There is a tangible power there, a visceral connection that can’t be captured by a photograph. That’s what makes it so hard to let go of this stuff, these things: they light up old, forgotten memories with vividness, depth, colour, emotion. They light up feelings from another time and place.

And so I tucked that one trophy away. For now.