For some reason, this week brought with it a series of vivid childhood memories. Perhaps the trigger was the splendid bald eagle flying past the window in conference room 32C-705 (I was going to be a biologist when I grew up) or it may have been the longing for a warmer climate (my first real winter was experienced at age 19). Whatever the reason, looking back on my childhood, I was surprised by the unexpected flood of memories and emotions I had not been aware I still carried with me. Like files on a rarely accessed network drive, these apparently forgotten moments hid there waiting to be summoned. As my mind's eye wandered through places and events, seemingly random linkages triggered adjacent memories, creating a domino effect which etched a smile on my face. You see, while not perfect, on balance, my childhood was happy. Key components of these pleasant memories were the places where I played. A sunny hillside where I would spend hours collecting grasshoppers. A eucalyptus tree whose branches hung over a ledge where a strategically tied rope allowed me to precariously dangle (dare I say fly?) for many seconds at a time. A field where I would run, trying to keep aloft the bamboo and newspaper kite I'd made hours earlier, in hopes the wind would soon pick-up.
Now that I'm an old man (back then, forty one certainly seemed old), I wonder which memories my children will treasure. What places and events will bring smiles to their faces when they're "old"? My playgrounds were physical locations you can travel to or pinpoint on a map (although, due to urban sprawl, many of them bear little resemblance to their former glory). I wonder whether an immersive virtual world of online games and web-based networking could possibly become that cherished playground my children will long for. If the amount of time spent is a factor, then perhaps they will someday long for the days when they wandered some land in world of warcraft hunting for trolls with wizards and other brutes. Then again, hopefully, not.
One thing I do know for certain is when it comes to donuts, a virtual experience could never substitute the real thing. Despite having a separated his shoulder (a moment he will likely not treasure when he's old), Charlie Suthard carried three dozen from his car all the way to my desk this morning (and he's making a second trip for the second dozen as I send this). The least we can all do is express our gratitude by consuming them, one bite at a time. If we're lucky, perhaps the taste and smell of the sweet donut will carry us back to a happy place in time (after all, these senses are the best equipped to trigger dormant memories).