The other day, when we were getting ready to put the kids to bed, our oldest pulled one of us aside and described a day he suddenly remembered from a few years ago, “when I was little.” It was nothing very unusual, just a funny way we were sitting next to each other and talking. But he recalled it with what was clearly a lot of fondness. Here was a seven-year-old waxing nostalgic about the good old days when he was four, and we thought how much more of this he has to look forward to, how many more years he has to pile up good memories before he leaves the nest for good. And all of us will have this to draw on for the rest of our lives.

-the Tracinskis

Last week I took my boy to our Stake’s annual Fathers-and-Sons campout. We were down among the cottonwoods, alongside the Rio Grande.

I could tell you what we did and said. The reason my boy told me why God made the river, the incident of the ants in the pile, the hikes to the port-a-potty, shying stones in the river, driftwood for the fire, “Dad, I like the Fathers and Sons camping with you, Dad.” But the words and the meaning wouldn’t be the same. You can write about happiness, but you can’t write happiness.

Instead, I’ll tell you something I learned. I read the Tracinski passage that starts this post a few days before the camp. It was topical. I took my son on his first Fathers and Sons last May when he was two. He loved it, so we in the family heard about nothing else from him for a few days. After that, boy-like, he moved on to other things. Then in July he brought it up again. Then again a few weeks later. Off and on, he’s remembered it all year.

When he is a grown man like me, he won’t remember it all. That’s natural. The funny thing is that for me, my first Fathers and Sons with my only boy was one of the high-points of my life. I’ll remember it until I die. Objectively, it should mean more to me than it does to him. But for the past year, his memories of it have been more vivid and more real than mine.

The scriptures pull in a lot of different directions. They tell us to be like a little child and they tell us to remember. Until this weekend,  while I was looking at my son, looking at his burger, and thinking about things, I thought these two scriptural commands were mostly contradictory. Why? I would have said because children live in the eternal now. Memory is an adult thing.

No. It turns out I was wrong. Adult memories are pale. Children’s memories are alive. The past isn’t past for them–it is part of the eternal now. That’s one reason why children are so good at creating instant traditions.  The veil between their selves is thin.

When all God’s mercies and glories to you seem as real as yesterday, you are very close to the Kingdom of Heaven.

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