Remember (if you’re approximately my age) how we used to cross our hearts and “hope to die”? We’d earnestly pledge ourselves to some action or affection, pantomiming the heart crossing as if we (in my case, good Southern Baptist girls) were genuflecting.
Today, kids pinky swear. To me, pinky swearing doesn’t carry the same weight as our covenants made on the pain of a-needle-in our-eye injury. But what do I know? As much as I assuredly meant all those promises (unless, of course, I somehow managed to cross my fingers behind my back as I gesticulated the heart crossing on my front), I can’t remember many of my hope-to-dies. The one I do remember was to remain lifelong friends with Sally Moore. I lost touch with Sally a few years after she moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, which for my 12-year-old perspective. might as well have been Peru.
Looking back at promises
We tend to look back at the promises we made, kept, and broke with a special nostalgia. They’re poignant memories. We think back wistfully—even regretfully and proudly. They are things we’d do over in a heartbeat. Things for which we wish we had a do-over. We wonder at the naivety that drove those pledges. Our passion. On rarer occasions, our youthful wisdom.
Some, of the promises we’ve made are easier kept than others. Promising to love. Promising to honor the memory of loved ones passed. For instance, for me, keeping my pledge to be a loving and faithful wife comes easily, unless “faithful” is interpreted as keeping an immaculate house and putting dinner on the table every night at 6pm. Others, like “I’ll NEVER, ever, tell my kids “Because I said so” was nigh to impossible.
Write about commitments and promises made, kept, forgotten, and broken.
Ever notice what a pivotal role commitments and promises play in memoirs and novels? That’s because they’re often turning points—even if we don’t recognize them as such at the time. But we all relate to that universal experience. It resonates because we’ve all been there to some degree or another.
And sometimes those promises come at moments that are momentous. Wedding vows. Death bed promises.
Our promises aren’t always between two people. Sometimes, it’s a promise that you made to yourself. To be independent. To live differently. To hold your head high. To not look back.
What promises have you made? Which ones have you kept? At what price have you kept them? What situations or circumstances gave rise to your pledge? Did you made them glibly or were they heartfelt?
What promises were broken? How did that come about? Was the promise based on different circumstances or understandings? Naïve to begin with? How do you feel about it now?