After a most trying week that ended with the cancellation of a two-week vacation, my husband and I landed at a resort in Rancho Mirage, California for the weekend. Not exactly the long vacation we had planned on, but in the end (as always), it turned out to be for the best.
Over the weekend, we spent a few hours taking a tour of Sunnylands, the home of the late Walter and Lee Annenberg. The Annenbergs were one of the most powerful and philanthropic American couples of the 20th century, and Sunnylands is the oasis in the desert that they built in the early 1960′s.
Situated on 200 acres with 11 lakes, hundreds of olive trees, a 9-hole golf course and views of the mountains everywhere you look, Sunnylands was where Ronald and Nancy Reagan spent nearly every New Year's Eve during his presidency and where Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas, Colin Powell, Queen Elizabeth and more came to visit at one time or another. It's also where every president since Eisenhower has visited, with some holding international summits at the location, including President Obama's recent meeting with China's President Xi Jiping.
The art collection amassed by the Annenbergs was donated to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, but in touring the relatively modest home, the reproductions were enough to make it clear how enormously wealthy they were -- not surprising, since Walter Annenberg was the founder of both Seventeen magazine and TV Guide, and created a show you may remember -- American Bandstand.
But enough about the rich and famous.
I went for a massage at the end of the weekend, desperately in need of a way to calm down -- as much as I enjoyed our getaway I was still wound tight as a drum after an unusually difficult few days. Sometimes (well, often), it's difficult for me to turn off my brain, and lying face down on the massage table, I decided to try and remember every vacation my husband and I have taken during our 26 (24 married) years together. I figured if the Annenbergs can have a "room of memories" with hundreds of photos of days gone by, plus a mausoleum on the grounds where they were laid to rest, the least I can do is remember a few weekends away, right?
Wrong. It was far too challenging.
So then I tried to focus on remembering good moments with my father and my grandmother, since this week marks the anniversary of each of their deaths. The usual things came to mind, but there was no revelation of hidden memories, no moments lying dormant in my brain that bubbled to the surface as I lay there, relaxed for the first time in, well, months.
The massage was wonderful, by the way. Really fantastic.
I stopped thinking about anything and drifted off -- but not before I had this thought:
Though people leave us behind when they die, we carry them with us in a million little ways. And though things may disappear -- treasured objects, letters written, broken objets (a word my grandmother used often), even laptops, we keep them with us too, remembering them and how they made us happy just to look at or use, read or leaf through. And though words may be deleted and history rewritten, we know in our hearts what has happened in our lives and we hold on to it.
A house may burn down and everything in it may disappear into the atmosphere, nothing more than ashes and smoke, but what happened in that house -- the voices that rang out, the tears shed, the laughter and heartache and disappointment and joy -- those things are never gone, as long as someone is here to remember, to tell the story.
The Annenbergs made an enormous mark on society and history, and documented it for all of us to see, to share in their lives. Though my life may be made of simpler stuff, it's still important to the people who love me and whom I love.
I carry it all with me.
This post originally appeared on Empty House Full Mind