The first clear memory I have that isn't fractured and vague, is of my 4th birthday party. I remember the frosting was chocolate with blue roses. Written on the cake in blue was “Happy Birthday Alison Dear, You are 4!” I blew out the candles and everyone laughed. I was wearing a pale blue dress with giant dark blue roses all over it and my hair was in a French braid. I don't remember if I was wearing shoes or not, I don't remember what happened after the party. But I do remember the birthday cake.
At one point, before they vanished, my mom had a lot of photo albums. They were visible records of our lives, snapshots of something happy. On our walls were family photo albums where in each cutout there was another glimpse of a family that some of us didn't know. Black and white pictures of my mom and dad's families. People the younger generations didn't know but could see the resemblance to. In one picture my mother was a teenager and beside it was a picture of me. Except for me having glasses and more modern clothes, we looked identical.
There are other things that can symbolize something in our minds. For the longest time I had a pendant made of rose quartz that reminded me of rock hunting with my family when we went camping. Himself has a backgammon board that he was given that had belonged to the grandfather he never knew. Pictures on the wall were the only things he had besides the board that showed him what his grandfather was like. But his mother had memories of the board, the pictures, the pair of cowboy boots they'd kept.
What do you have that helps inspire your memories? Do you cling to things that remind you of the good times?