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July 10, 2014

Werner and Mary Braun: Lasting memories

A number of years ago, I went on a camera safari in Kenya. As chances would have it, I was the only passenger in the safari truck so I had a lot of freedom in terms of where we wanted to go, the types of animals we wanted to see and how long we lingered at each location.

This was in the mid 1980s, long before digital cameras. At the time I was an avid photographer and enjoyed doing my own darkroom work. But back to the point.

As we crested a small rise in the savanna there, not 50 feet from me was a wildebeest giving birth. As I grabbed my camera, to my horror I realized the film roll was full. I was faced with a dilemma: either grab another roll of film and miss the event or put the camera down and witness the calf being born.

Thankfully, I opted for the latter. Today, 30 years later, every detail of the birth is still etched into my memory. (An aside: The birth was absolutely amazing. The calf was born in three or four minutes and within another two or three minutes the calf was on its wobbly feet. Amazingly, within about 10 minutes the calf was running off back to the herd with its mother. This is a perfect example of survival of the fittest. A calf learns to run quickly after birth or it’s lion food.)

Thinking back, I realize that my most vivid memories are preserved in my mind and not on film. After the second world war, my Vati (German for father) worked for the U.S. Army as an instructor in the new civilian police academy. He worked for Army Captain Mac. I was 4 when we left Stuttgart bound for Indianapolis.

As we were walking up the stairs to board the TWA Constellation, I remember Captain Mac handing me a “huge” Hershey’s chocolate bar. I can still remember how wonderful that chocolate tasted. I’m sure my parents remembered the mess I made eating it.

Reflecting on memories as I prepared for this column, it became obvious that the most vivid memories fall into two categories: the happiest and the scariest.

When Mary and I met, I was an avid rock climber and my scariest memory involved climbing. I got into a situation where I was looking at a 60-foot fall which would have been fatal.

As I sit here at the computer my palms are sweating just recalling that moment. When I asked Mary to marry me, she said, “Yes, but ...” I could keep climbing but needed to stop free solo climbing. She probably saved my life that day — literally and figuratively. Thanks, Mary.

So what’s the point of all this? Lasting memories can be created any day by the confluence of events or by planned activities that will create the memories.

Years ago when our daughter and son were born, we intentionally decided that we would work hard to create lasting memories for our children. Most recently, we rented an RV to take a road trip with our kids and two of their friends to Cedar Point Amusement Park on the shores of Lake Erie and then on to Michigan to visit the grandparents. It was lots of driving but incredibly fun!

It is my sense that the memories we create for our children are even more important as we get older. After all, once we pass, the memories that we leave behind are what’s left of us.

We will continue to work at creating memories — hopefully the happy variety.

Werner and Mary Braun live in Dalton. He is the retired president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.

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