By Tiffany A. Potter
Storyland reopened on Sept. 4, and I couldn’t be happier for it. I consider it a jewel of this town that we live in (a town that outsiders seldom have anything nice to say about), and I was worried about losing something so precious and unique. However, in an effort for full journalistic disclosure I must tell you that I am more than a bit partial to the place and, in fact, carry a special attachment to it and Roeding Park, in general.
My maternal grandfather, Adelmo, once worked for the City of Fresno, and his job consisted of maintaining Roeding Park and planting one of the first trees in Woodward prior to his retiring. I remember him in his green uniform. Truth be told, I’m not sure if they are actual memories or just pictures I have seen of him in his uniform that I draw on. Doesn’t matter, I suppose. I haven’t written much about him in our months together thus far, but I had the pleasure of being raised, in part, by one of the most amazing men I will ever know. And one of the more special memories I have of our 22 years we had together was him taking me to Storyland.
When I returned to Fresno after my stint in San Diego, my now husband took me on a date to a concert afterhours at Storyland. It was magical. So few have the opportunity to experience it after dark, but I encourage you, if ever you have a chance to do so, you absolutely must.
The memories of my time with my Papo came rushing back and brought tears to my eyes as we came upon the Caterpillar that greeted us, the little church complete with the tiny pews that make an adult feel like a giant, and King Arthur’s Castle. I was unprepared for the flood of emotions, but lovingly welcomed them in with open arms. The outside world didn’t exist in that moment and in times when I miss him so much that I am desperate to feel close to him again, I was blissfully excited to feel him with me again that night, if only for a few hours. He was all around me, I just knew it.
Here’s what I have learned about myself as I’ve gotten older: I am protective of my good memories. No one talks about it much, but our good memories are where we retreat to when life gets bad. When we’re feeling a loss, we reflect back on the times that we experienced laughter and comfort, love and joy with whomever we no longer have. It’s safe there and it gets us through. Some days, it’s the only thing that gets us through.
We typically can’t choose the shit that life throws at us, but we can choose our coping skills in order to handle it. For some, it’s a substance or addiction that dulls the pain. For me, never being interested in running away from my feelings, but rather facing them head on, it’s drawing on my happy memories no matter how bittersweet. What are photo albums and scrapbooks, really, but a visual reminder of our memories that serve as comfort when we need it the most?
A few years ago, as a part-time substitute teacher for Fresno Unified, I received a request to teach at my alma mater, Hoover High School. I was hesitant. I should have gone with my intuition and passed on that job, but I didn’t. I’ll never make that mistake again.
High school for me was really enjoyable. Aside from the typical teenage angst that those four years bring for just about everyone, I was a cheerleader for a few years, in every play possible, and a member of so many clubs that I can’t even remember them all. I loved my classes, had a ton of friends because of my deep submersion into high school life, and landed my first job in the mall for Miller’s Outpost when I turned 16, received a Geo Metro for my 16th birthday (don’t laugh, it was fabulous and I loved it). To this day, my best friend is a result of our time together on the JV cheer squad our sophomore year when we wore scrunchies in our hair and used pink foam rollers to look extra cute for our competitions or picture days.
But that particular day, returning to campus, as I pulled into the parking lot, it felt like the twilight zone. So much had changed, but then so much had stayed the same. I was overwhelmed. One of the ladies in the office remembered me. I had to learn the campus all over again in order to get to my classroom, and somewhere around the first 15 minutes of first period I knew I shouldn’t have been there. Against my better judgment, I hadn’t honored that internal voice that has never steered me wrong before. My good memories were now tainted. I hadn’t protected them like I should have. The only thing I knew to do was call my best friend on my lunch break because she is the only person in my world who could truly understand.
My loves, in the hustle of life please make sure that you leave enough energy to make good memories. They’ll save your life, and your sanity, in the long run. And never underestimate that those little things that you do for and with your children will someday be the experiences that they tell their own kids about. Travel as much as you can to learn about other cultures and then live a life of retelling the stories. Spend time in nature to understand the vast gratitude that comes when you realize just how small you really are. Document, document, document (and I don’t just mean on social media where, by its very nature, your stories and pictures breathe an air of inauthenticity) because your heart has to report on your experiences in some way, and honor the good memories. Don’t take them for granted. Be thankful.
And it is with thanks that I end this month with a note to Ernesto [Saavedra], my editor who has moved on from our paper. I learned a long time ago that most of the best things in life come at the most unexpected of times and in the most unexpected of ways. Enter an unexpected text message from a past co-worker on a night like any other that led to a meeting with the editor of the Community Alliance that led to this column.
Ernesto, you are a visionary. Your forethought for this column as a voice that would add value to the paper, the trust that you offered me in writing it with no knowledge of each month’s content, and the patience afforded me when deadline day would come and you would respond to my text with, “So you’re saying you need more time? No problem.” are all reasons why you were exceptional at your job. Thank you (it hardly seems like enough, but it’s all I got).
And now…welcome Madame editor, Hannah [Brandt]!
Tiffany is an entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and change agent. Find her at www.TiffanysTake.com and Instagram: Tiffanys_Take.