I’ll never forget stopping at an overlook on Highway 36 just outside Boulder, Colorado. Barbara and I were newlyweds, and we were driving to our little apartment in Boulder. I pulled over to show her a view of our new home’s setting. At that point all we had were wedding gifts, the same last name, and a few days’ worth of experiences together. Our family was brand new.

Skip forward a few decades, and now our walls and bookshelves hold pictures and memorabilia of experiences we’ve shared together. Thanks to these memory makers, and to Barbara for being a memory catcher, our family has a clear fingerprint—a family identity uniquely ours among the six billion people in the world.

Memories are powerful family possessions that profoundly link hearts together. Both you and your spouse need to be diligent in planning memories (as well as enjoying those that come as surprises) and taking necessary steps to save or catch memories.

Nearly any event has the potential to become a treasured memory. Let me illustrate. One weekend during our first few weeks of marriage, Barbara and I decided to drive four hours north to Wyoming to go fishing. When we arrived, we discovered the lake had been drained, so we impulsively decided to go to Yellowstone National Park and watch Old Faithful erupt. Eight hours later, we arrived just in time to see the eruption. Then we looked at our watches and realized we’d better head home!

Obviously, that is not the way to see Yellowstone. But we had an absolute blast driving, talking, and laughing together. To this day, that adventure remains a fun memory of our early days together when we had no children.

Memory making

Someone once said, “God gave us memories so that we could enjoy roses in January.” Let me share with you what we’ve learned about creating a vase full of long-stemmed roses in the winter:

Memories are best made with loved ones. That’s why a marriage is a ready-made unit for the rich production and harvest of memories. Memories enrich a marriage by giving us a common language of shared experience.

When our children came along, we made sure that we took advantage of car trips to have fun and build relationships. We often played a game called “Beetle, Beetle,” which involved spotting Volkswagen Bugs on the highway. Points were awarded depending on the color or position of the Beetle. We would yell, “Multicolor Beetle moving; that’s four points!”

On one vacation I knew we were approaching a roadside junkyard that contained at least 20 Volkswagens. When we rounded a corner, I was ready! Before they knew what hit them, I rattled off about 30 points. The children groaned, one of them yelling, “Dad, you cheater!” Great fun!

Memories take time. Our best memories have been born out of extended time together. If we could have driven to Old Faithful in 30 minutes, I doubt that we’d even recall going.

Memories are made of varied adventures. Too many of us get in a rut and don’t realize the many wonderful ways to share our lives together. Barbara and I camped out on our honeymoon, got snowed on, and nearly froze to death, but I saved the day by zipping our sleeping bags together. Since then we’ve traveled to most of the states and to faraway places (South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Austria, Israel, France, and Estonia, to name a few).

Memories are both planned and unplanned. Make sure you plan traditions around family get-togethers for holidays. And anniversaries and birthdays should be observed with the same intensity we give to holidays such as Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. By making a big deal of your anniversary, you not only honor your mate but also send a strong message to your family and others about the importance of your marriage covenant. And a birthday—this is the one day of the year when each person should feel totally unique, honored, appreciated, and loved.

It’s good to plan a great vacation. Memories are made as we create family traditions, but watch for the serendipitous memory. One midwinter night, the power went off and we cooked supper over the fireplace. Don’t lose your ability to be spontaneous and impulsive.

Memories are celebrated. A memory isn’t a memory if you don’t talk about it, look at pictures of it, and laugh or cry about it. “Do you remember the time …” can be a joyful introduction to a family conversation. One of our favorite questions to revisit as a couple or as a family is, If you could keep only one memory of all our years together, what would it be? Why?

Memory catching

I’m grateful that Barbara became the family curator and historian. You or your spouse needs to assume this role, or you’ll forget a thousand memories.

A certain amount of record keeping and documentation helps a memory last. Taking pictures or videos is a good way to do this, but also collect concert programs, newspaper articles—any object that records and preserves the memory. Creativity opens many possibilities.

In our house several bookshelves are dedicated to family scrapbooks. They begin when we were single, and then every year from 1972 on has a scrapbook. Each singular, irreplaceable page logs the “official, authorized” history of our early married years and our family’s memories.

And it hasn’t stopped. The memories keep building, along with the scrapbooks!

Adapted from Starting Your Marriage Right, copyright © 2000 Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Thomas Nelson Publisher.