3 kids who changed my life forever inspired me everyday during the process of memorizing this wall. Their names are Jacob, Chloe and Kailey. When I returned from Afghanistan in 2008 I was 35 years old and had never been in a relationship that was super close to marriage. I had dated my share and had 2 long term relationships but neither really progress past the point of, ‘I think you are really cool and I care enough about you to say I love you but not really super ecstatic about his whole thing.’ In addition, I love my family but because of my work schedule I don’t see them much. It isn’t a relationship where I see them often and hug them and tell them how much I love them and that is because of my own challenges. So in reality, I can’t say up to the age of 35 I had ever had a relationship where the love was so pure, unselfish, genuine and expressed. With these 3 kids it was. It was unreal for me and changed me for the better.
When I was dating their mom they would run to the door as I approached and rush to hug me and I did the same. I have never experienced anything like it in my life. We were at a Ranger baseball game once and the youngest Kailey climbed out of my lap and over to another 5 year old (as she was) and said, ‘See that guy…he is champion on the memorizers.’ She said it so proudly that she knew me and of course the little girl she was trying to impress wrinkled her eyebrows to figure out what that meant and they went on to play. But it felt so damn good for me!! To have a little girl that proud of me. After my wins at the USA Memory Championship I heard the kids took a copy of the newspaper I was in to school. I didn’t react much when their mom told me the story but inside I felt so good.
Kailey was the easiest to express my love for because she was the youngest but the love was there for all of them equally. Jacob wanted my Nintendo in 2010 and I told him he could have it if he memorized the presidents of the USA. He was 10 (maybe 11) at the time and this smart boy took all 44 presidents and using the system I taught him memorized all 44 presidents one evening and I gave him the Nintendo. Kailey and Chloe soon wanted in on the fun and they also memorized the presidents. Think about that for a minute a 6 year old and 9 year old memorized 44 words IN SEQUENCE in ONE evening. It is an impressive feat if you think about it. Here are the videos of Chloe and Kailey (I wish I had filmed Jacob’s as well)
Unfortunately, these 3 kids moved away and I don’t see them anymore. It ripped my heart out of its socket when that happened but the kids were with me each step of the way during the Afghanistan Memory Wall process…at least in my imagination.
As I would get stuck and think I couldn’t go any further I would remind myself,’Jacob, Chloe and Kailey memorized 44 presidents. You are only doing 50 times that and you are a USA Memory Champion. You got this. They believe you can and you can.’ Now, in reality I was memorizing much more than 50 times what they did. I was memorizing rank, 1st name and last and it worked out to 7,000 words not 44 words. But still, the fact that a little 6 year old girl memorized 44 words in one evening was all the reminder I needed when this project just seemed like it was too much.
Not only did they act as inspiration they were images on my list. The way I memorize is I have a picture assigned to every #. Sometimes that picture is a noun and sometimes it is a location in a room. For the #602 is ‘chasing’. Once the kids and I were at Chili’s and I said, ‘Kailey it’s time to go.’ This little 5 year old girl stuck here finger up in the air and yelled, ‘You’ll never catch me alive’ and then ran around Chili’s as I chased her. It was hilarious and that image of chasing her became my image for 602. The 602nd person on my list is Sgt. Jerome Bell and he is tied to this picture of Kailey forever.
Staff Sgt Jacob Frazier is on my list and I visualize Jacob standing with a staff (a stick/cane). Lt Florence Choe is on the list and I imagine Chloe (for Choe) holding a lantern (for some reason I think of Florence Nightingale with a latern). So the kids not only served as my motivation when I got discouraged to keep pressing on they also were images all throughout my list (these are just 3).
When I would get stuck, I would remind myself how much these kids believed in me . I never had anything like it before and may never have anything like it after. I constantly reminded myself how they had done it with their own list of 44 people when I would doubt if this was even humanly possible. They were definitely big in this process for me on every level.
Not only was the example they set of memorizing 44 words an inspiration because of their young age, the pure unselfish love they gave me was strong enough to 2-3 years later be tangibly strong if I just closed my eyes and imagined as I did many times during the process. When I would think of my reward at the end of the wall, I used the motivation of the hug they would give me when I finished the project to spur me on. Although, I knew in my heart the hug, in reality, would never happen. Regardless, I used it as inspiration. With that said, after the completion of the project the hug happened in my mind and if this project has taught me anything it is the power of the mind.
That was beautiful. It sounds like you were really lucky to get to know those kids.
I think what you’re doing is great and if you’re ever in the Northeast, I would gladly come out and pay my respect. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.