A Trip Down Memory Lane This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 30, 2010
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Sometimes it is those simple, seemingly indifferent moments in our lives that become the rallying points of our memories. To be incredible, personal, and significant, a story does not necessarily need an elegant or eccentric backdrop nor apocalyptic circumstances. The most interesting and fun memories can come from a visit to the local pool, a walk down the hallway at school, or a bus ride from simple old Hackensack, New Jersey, to the Big Apple. Why am I so sure of this? Well, this opinion is derived solely from my personal experiences.

My Great-Aunt Hilda redefines the term “great”. I think something like “awesome” would be more fitting, for in my mind, she is the epitome of amazing. Every recollection I have of a Thanksgiving Day or a Passover Seder includes her with her orange-blonde hair and wrinkled brow (which I always remember to have been that way). It is quite incredible how you can spend weeks and your favorite times with a person, but it can take sitting next to them for twenty minutes on a grey, scratchy seated bus before you can truly say that you have gotten to know them.

Two summers ago my brother and I embarked on an adventure of sorts. We would be going to our aunt and uncle’s house in New Jersey for one week. For me, this would be my first trip away from my parents, and I was both anticipating and worrying about it. The minute we arrived at the airport though, any trace of nervousness that had tried to consume me vanished. My relatives could not have feasibly cared more about us. They wanted each and every second to be perfect and special, and that they were. From the Empire State building to the enormous elephant shaped building named “Lucy”, to seeing the play, “Young Frankenstein” and hearing the cacophony of interesting sounds that define the huge city, it was great.

Each day didn’t start in the metropolis though. Instead, we rose sleepily in our aunt and uncle’s condominium and sat down to breakfast together (a meal that consisted of bagels and fake margarine). Then, it was off to the bus stop to catch the next ride to New York. The best word to describe where we stood is “ordinary”. It was located on a green patch of the sidewalk with overgrown grass and a little touch of graffiti. This place was more than just a bus stop though; it was our gateway to a day of adventure, and I knew the second time we were there how much I would remember the spot later. As we waited, I recognized out of the corner of my eye a four-leaf-clover beneath my feet. After thirty years of standing right there, my aunt had never had this happen. I knew it would be an awesome trip.

As the bus pulled in, we climbed the stairs that lead to our gateway, and my aunt and I sat down together (myself at the window) with my older brother and uncle behind us. This would become the crux of my spending time with my aunt. We would talk about anything and everything on those rides, from her weekly haircuts to her stories of my mom as a kid, to tales of times we had shared together, to the story of the day she stood for hours on a very similar bus as they slowly fought a blizzard… I learned of experiences of hers that I had never really contemplated, like her first job and her high school reminiscences. Every morning and afternoon that we took that same route, the ride felt shorter and shorter. I started to be able to predict the ending of the anecdotes about my aunt being tormented by her two older brothers (one being my grandfather), and I had a good sense of what Aunt Hilda’s reactions would be. Did I mention her stubborn personality or her love of world travel? I heard the wildest and most humorous stories of expeditions in Africa and the descriptions of mouthwatering food in Italy. Oh! There was also that time they got stuck in Greece during the revolution…

I was always close with my aunt, but this was a special, personal encounter that I shared with her. Maybe it wasn’t as funny as the day we found ourselves wearing the sticky red juice of melted Italian ices. (Did I forget to say that being uncoordinated runs in the family?) Maybe it didn’t have the irony of when we ate at the Second Avenue Deli on Thirds Street, but it was special, and I will never forget it.

My Great Aunt Hilda passed away in the spring of last year. This was the first time I lost a person in my life whom I was really close with. I found that when someone is no longer with you, all of your memories of him or her flood back to you at once. You realize just how well you understood your loved one when you can listen to other people’s stories of him or her and live the moments as if you were there. Of course, no one else’s memories can compare to yours. I am lucky, not because I found a four-leaf-clover at a bus stop, but because I got to sit in the seat next to my aunt on the twenty minute trips down memory lane. My aunt was not perfect, but she was the best. She taught me to live life to the fullest and savor every moment, especially those ordinarily extraordinary ones.

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