Library of Memories

By Matt Mittan

Tucked up in the back corner of my walk-in closet is a small library of old photo albums. They start from the time I was about 14 years old. Annual additions end by the time I was about 21. Most of them are starting to come apart at the seams. The photo pages inside are coming unglued and the small sheets of notepad paper, with hand written notes on them, are starting to fade to yellow.

Like a frozen moment in time, these old photo albums capture a period of life that many books and movies attempt to recreate; the journey from comic books to adulthood. Thankfully, I’ve got a complete photo diary right here at my fingertips to reflect from.

Remember when your week was measured by the next place you were going to fish? I do. By Wednesday, I was eagerly scanning the forecast section of our local newspaper. (There were no smart phones, weather apps, internet connections, or 24 hour weather channels back then.) By Thursday, I was plotting my strategy. By Friday, I was already getting my gear ready and my lures prepped. By Saturday morning, I could barely wait for the first glow of sunrise so I could finally get out on the water. It’s funny. During the school week I would struggle to get out of bed on time. But Saturdays? I was often up an hour before dawn, with an eager spring in my step.

These photo albums are filled with hundreds of Saturday’s. Aside from seeing myself, and so many of my friends in their awkward and wonderful teen years, it also reminds me of the innocence of our lives back then. We didn’t yet know about bills, budgets and business. We barely had girlfriends, never mind thinking about starting and maintaining households of our own. Any girls in our lives knew that the fishing outings came first. We lived to fish. We lived to be out on the water together as a brotherhood.

Some of my favorite albums are the ones from “Wild Island”. This was a small island on an undeveloped lake that we would venture out to every summer. We would spend a week or two living on the lump of rock and trees that barely fit our 3 or 4 tents. We would assemble a small armada of canoes and rowboats to make the trip out to the back cove that housed our temporary home.

In the center of the island was a rounded rock surface that served as the epicenter of all our activities. From the top of it, you could easily scan the conditions out on the main lake. Down one side of the rock was formed a natural soft sloped area that made for a perfect fire pit and seating enclave. The island was surrounded by the thickest labyrinth of Lily Pads to be found within a day’s drive. And the closest place on land that people could approach us was a high rock face at the front entrance to the back cove. We could spot intruders long before they could even think about approaching our water world sanctuary. And make no mistake. It was ours! We were the “Kings” of our own island. Our mote was the large lake that spread out all around. We cooked all our own food. We took turns making firewood runs along the vast wooded shoreline. For bathing, we would head out into the middle of the lake with bars of soap and swimsuits to do flips off of my 18 foot, wide bottom, unsinkable Guide canoe.

We couldn’t see a future where we didn’t live exactly the way we wanted to. If there was something we wanted, we planned and worked to make it a reality. I sometimes wonder what life does to wash some of those ideals away as we go through the chapters of our lives. Is it actually different, or do we just convince ourselves that we can’t live with that sort of freedom once the weight of adulthood bears down on us?

Like the pages of my library of memories, some friendships came apart at the seams. Some of the personalities that were so central to my life came unglued. And even memories themselves seem like they start to fade, the further from their genesis I go. I’m thinking that maybe that’s why we are supposed to keep making new memories. Why we are supposed to strive to live free. Why we have to put in the planning and work to get those Saturdays in the wheelhouse of making our weekly dreams come true. It starts by deciding what I will do this coming Saturday. I’ll check the forecast Wednesday. What about you?

Matt Mittan is a long time broadcaster in NC, based out of Asheville. He currently applies his years of experience as a business owner to serve as a Licensed Employee Benefits Adviser to companies large and small across WNC, Eastern TN and the Upstate of SC. You can reach Matt by emailing MattsFishingDiary@gmail.com.

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