The holidays mark the years, remind us of times gone by – and how much time has gone by – and make us dust off old memories from our subconscious attic, to be poured and wept over, a la Clark Griswold. The funny thing about memories is – they have a keen ability to remove lots of the bad stuff.
Which is a lesson to you – if you won’t remember it in 10 years, it probably isn’t important enough to get upset about now.
People my age, especially if they’re married, are in an in-between time in which their parents’ home still kind of feels like home, and the life built as an adult starts feeling more comfortable. I’ve been married for two years, and lived with my husband for almost four, and I still feel a little weird that I have a different home now. But gradually, my parents’ house is feeling less like home the longer I’m away.
When the holidays come around, I realize that the life I used to live is gone. Certain things will never happen again – waking up at 6 a.m. Christmas morning with my sister and parents; weekend routines watching movies; our monthly grocery shopping trip; my grandparents’ houses.
People change – they become old and senile until you forget who they once were. Your environment changes – your childhood home is renovated and no longer looks quite the same again. Where you once believed anything was possible in your life (I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up!) you are now more cautious and realistic.
Life moves on – a day’s fun enters the family mythology and the story told, over and over again, a little more exaggerated each time. Meaningful events – graduations, weddings, births – fill a brief stretch of time with excitement and then fade, as normal life resumes. But it’s in that normal life that the most treasured memories are born – the moments that you don’t think you’ll remember but stick out the most.
Writers call them “telling details:” the little things that mean a lot.
I spent many years – high school, college, and those fledgling, confused years of early adulthood – unhappy and frightened. But every year, when the holidays bring out the old memories again, I dust off little snippets of my past life and find they are not tinged with this sadness. I remember the joy of being with my family, of discovering myself, of hoping – I remember good things. Guess it wasn’t so bad after all.
Even when life is tough, there are wonderful things happening all around you. Beautiful memories are being made that one day, you’ll look upon with bittersweet nostalgia. Only when they’ve passed will you notice them – and Christmas is usually the time when you do.
The same goes for today – whatever bad thing is happening, your memory will erase it. So cherish what you have, no matter how small; someday, everything will just be a lovely memory with all the bad parts cut out.
JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.
She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.
She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.