Do you have memories of childhood that still resonate today? I mean sweet ones. I know others surface, of course, but for now, I am wondering about how the good stuff of the past can inform our days today. Maybe they can brighten them or give us a hint how to live into our future.

Susan Lebel Young, a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher, is the author of three books. Her latest is “Grandkids as Gurus: Lessons for Grownups.” Learn more at susanlebelyoung.com or email [email protected]

One day, a few years ago, my cousin Diane brought me a picture of her and me as children. She was much smaller than me then as she sat in her high chair. She had a round face and brown curly hair. I was standing next to her, one year older. When she was maybe 50 and I 51, we laughed that when I was 2 and she was 1 might have been the last time I was taller. Now she is 5 feet, 6 inches. I just barely top 5 feet.

In the black and white photo from 1951, I was standing by her high chair in my plaid skirt with attached suspenders over my starched white shirt – even at 2, I had my father’s legs, sturdy. They were sticking out from that pleated skirt, short, muscular, a little bowed like his. I wore white bobby socks and red shoes. I bet I knew then that my cousin Diane and I would hang together a long time. I loved her mom, too, my mom’s older sister. I remember going to their house on Colonial Road to laugh with them, to play and to eat hot dogs on their deck where I could spill out the oozing ketchup all over the wooden decking. Aunt Lorraine didn’t seem to mind the mess, would say nothing, get a rag and wipe it up. Funny how we remember the small things that can mean so much.

I told Diane all these years later, “Di, look at this photo. I was holding out my hand to you. I was asking you if you wanted to go for a walk with me.” She did then and she still does.

Here I am, as Robert Frost would say in his poem, “The Road Not Taken,” telling this story ages and ages since. Now our cousin Nancy walks with us, too. We walk on paths where we get lost, trails that are well marked with yellow or red blazes on trees, which would be helpful if one wanted to stay on the path. But we are sort of “Road Less Taken” kind of walkers and it has indeed made all the difference. Two roads diverge in a yellow wood and we laugh. “Where are we? Oh well, good thing it’s only 1:30. We have at least two hours before it gets dark. We’ll be OK.”

Left. Right. Left. Right. Way leads onto way. One foot strikes the ground, the other lifts momentarily. Have the three of us been doing this our whole lives? Miles and miles. It started simply enough, the freedom to get out of the house, for exercise, power walking, walking in rain and snow, the wide-open spaced boulevard, the tighter-wooded Portland Trails, Stroudwater. Now it’s more complicated with Fitbits, counting steps and all. We walk one day and then, “Do you want walk tomorrow? I don’t know where yet.” That’s part of the freedom. Part of the messiness. That’s part of the stride-by-stride memory of growing up together.

Even though we’ve all had memories of childhood that haunt us, maybe touch into trauma, there are some worth remembering that can walk with us, that really can make a difference.

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