I've never considered myself a collector of material things. Sure, I've got a few souvenirs from my travels, and a handful of posters that I love for the art, but for the most part I've preferred to travel light and gather life experiences instead of trinkets.
When I was in the Navy my roommate J.T. and his girlfriend Monica wanted to do something special for my birthday. They discussed it for a few days, and decided that the best gift they could give me would be a memory. They were exactly right. We were temporarily stationed at the Marine base in Yuma, Arizona for the summer. On the night of my birthday they put me in the backseat of the car and blindfolded me. I rode in silence, grinning, listening for clues and trying to discover a hidden meaning behind every bump in the road.
After about twenty minutes the car stopped, and they helped me out of the backseat. Monica took my arm and led me for about fifty yards. I could hear the trunk of the car open, and then a few moments later, slam shut with an authoritative finality. I heard J.T. hurry by us a few moments later. My feet left the pavement after the first few steps, and I could feel soft grass beneath the soles of my shoes. "We're almost there," she said, the excitement in her voice making it hard not to rip the blindfold off, but that would have spoiled the surprise. We stopped walking, and Monica helped me sit.
She removed the blindfold, and there before me was the eighteenth hole of a local golf course, the target flag waving gently on top of the pole. Spread before us on the green was a blanket, three champagne glasses and a bottle of Asti Spumante, the long green neck leaning out of the top of a bucket of ice. That was twenty-three years ago and I still remember the brand. We talked and toasted each other until the bottle was gone, then continued our conversation under the brilliant, starlit summer sky until the sprinkler system kicked on, and the three of us ran, laughing, back to J.T.'s car.
I still haven't forgiven myself for losing touch with J.T. and Monica. People lose touch, it's a sad fact of life, but I can't help feeling that I should have tried harder. They split up just before I left the Navy. The last I heard J.T. had gone back to St. Louis. I know Monica is a fellow Texan, but I'm sure she has a different last name now. She was a beautiful girl and ready to settle down.
Maybe someday, through some miracle of this hyper connected world we now live in, J.T., Monica, and many others that had a hand in creating these wonderful memories I keep in my head will stumble across this blog and drop me a line.