Updated on 09.16.09


Trent Hamm

When I was a teenager, I spent several summers helping my father with his small-scale commercial fishing business. Early in the morning, just as the sun was creeping over the horizon, we’d push a boat out on the water, heading out to raise the lines we’d put out the night before. The water was still and brightly colored with the reflection of the dawn. The air was just chilly enough to warrant a flannel shirt (that would usually be taken off after an hour or so).

My father and I would pull in those lines. I would usually guide the lines in and dip the net into the water to scoop up the fish, while my father would remove the fish from the line and keep it from getting tangled.

It was a beautiful and simple routine, almost a ritual. For the weeks when we were both on our summer vacation, fishing in this fashion was simply our daily routine – and even in my teenage years, as jaded and reactionary as I might have been, I really did appreciate those beautiful mornings out on the water.

Quite often, the things you remember and keep with you aren’t the expensive things. They’re the nearly free things – the reflection of sunlight on the water, the time spent with someone you love, the moist chill in the air, the stillness of the water, the quiet dawn before the water fills with traffic.

The great things in my past aren’t things – they’re experiences.

For some, the way to draw upon that kind of nostalgia is to buy an expensive fishing boat and to take their own son out one morning on the lake, only to find out that after dumping thousands of dollars into that boat and the necessary equipment, the trip out on the water with their son just isn’t the same.

To put it simply, you can’t buy things to recapture the beauty of the past.

I offer a different approach. Next summer, I’m going to go visit my parents. Early one morning, before dawn, I’ll take my son down to the water’s edge – and if my father is up for it, he can come along as well. Maybe we’ll go out there on a boat if one is handy – maybe not.

We’ll be warm in our flannel shirts, with the cool and quiet air of the retreating night. And as dawn breaks over the horizon, spilling her pink and orange and yellow rays out over the still water to be reflected in an infinite kaleidoscope, I’ll watch it with my son and with my father, too.

I don’t need a boat to enjoy that moment, to taste a bit of the best moments of my past. I don’t need thousands of dollars in equipment, either.

All I need are the people around me that I care about, standing with me in a place that holds great memories for me.

Sure, my son might be restless. It’s not his memories that I’m touching. He might grow bored and begin to toss rocks out on the water, filling the air with splashes and disturbing the still glass of the water with infinite ripples.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. While it’s wonderful to touch the memories of the past, he and I have lots of new memories to create together.

It doesn’t take a wallet full of cash to make memories, or to touch them again. You’ll never have the full flavor of that experience again. What you can have, though, are tastes of it, flavored with the new spices of the changes in your life. Perhaps that will spoil the broth – or perhaps it will bring new flavors to the surface.

Either way, it doesn’t require you to sacrifice the things you have – and the things you will have – at the altar of nostalgia.

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  1. Shirl says:

    One weekend in the fall our family rents a summer camp we attended as kids. My whole family spent time there as either campers or staff. We look forward to it every year but our spouses tolerate it. They just don’t get the magical way the memories make us feel like kids again.

  2. Kevin says:

    Nice post. Although I could quibble about a word choice or a phrase here or there, it’s well written. Very evocative of some of my mornings as a youngster at our summer camp. Well done.

  3. Kay says:

    Hi Trent,

    I teach eighth grade English; your writing is very similar. Have you taken a writing course?

  4. Those kind of memories are, of course, Priceless.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  5. Suzanne says:

    I thought it was especially touching how you realized your son wouldn’t be sharing the same memory as you. What a great parent you are to realize that he can share the experience, but never relive it exactly the same with you. I bet you will treasure the new memories you make on that trip just the same.

  6. Gwen says:

    I liked this very much and thought it was very touching.

  7. Rosa Rugosa says:

    The prose was a bit flowery for my taste, but the point is well taken.

  8. Reinder says:

    @Kay: similar to what?

  9. Anna says:

    Trent, even though your son’s memories will be different from yours, they will be just as potent and beautiful, and effective in his life. Maybe in 30 years he will take his son (and elderly you!) down to the water’s edge to inspire another generation of memories.

  10. anne says:

    hey kay-

    don’t be such a

    oh wait. trent doesn’t want me to use that kind of language around here.

    and i can’t believe they let someone as rude and mean as you work w/ children.

  11. Who cares about the writing style or choice of words???

    Its a great post, and a point well-taken. Too many times these days I see parents try to “purchase” memories.

    I have a two-year old son, and I guarantee you we will have more, and better memories of say, a bird feeder we made out of an empty milk jug over ANYTHING I may have bought for him from the toy store.

  12. anne says:

    i think my first comment re kay might have been too agressive and was probably deleted.

    so i’ll try again-

    kay(#3)- what exactly are you trying to say?

  13. Kay says:

    I was trying to say how much I enjoy Trent’s style of writing; it’s perfect? As #11 points out, Who cares about the wrting syle or choice of words! I love Trent’s writing and his frugal ideas.

    Also, regarding Anne, your comment was very much appreciated; thank you for steering me in the right direction.

  14. Kevin says:

    @DavidYourFinances: People who love the English language, writing, and creative expression care about the writing style and choice of words.

    As a blogger, I would think you’d understand and appreciate that… ???

  15. Kay says:

    @Kevin…Yes, you are right; which, is what point I was making. Your comment was more thoughtful than mine and not so “rude and mean” according to Anne’s AGGRESSIVE comment.

  16. Rachel says:

    I spent a lot of time at my aunts house when I was growing up. She lived far out in the country in Alabama. It was my absolute favorite place on earth. For some reason, when I am washing dishes I can smell her house. I don’t know if I use the same brand of liquid she did, but the smell is just so comforting and the memory is so strong. Also, when my husband or my son come out of the bathroom after a hot shower, I smell her bathroom. Now, we were equally as clean in my own home, but I was never as happy there, so I guess that it why the smell triggers such a strong feeling.

  17. anne says:


    sorry i was so quick to get angry and obnoxious-

    i thought you were trying to say trent was writing like a 12 or 13 year old, and he should take a writing course.

    i now see you meant to compliment him. oops.


  18. Evita says:

    Lovely post! it put a smile on my face!
    Thanks Trent!

  19. Eileen says:

    Really enjoyed reading this. It brought me back to times I fished with my grandpa. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Jordan says:

    Trent, your post gave me goosebumps – the part where you talked about standing at the water’s edge with your father and son. Just beautiful. Thanks for this.

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