This is the use of memory:
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past.
(from “Little Gidding,” T.S. Eliot)
For the first time in weeks, the house is quiet.
I am alone.
It’s a gift.
There was a time when our house felt as empty and lifeless as a fizzled-out balloon.
But not lately.
It’s been popping with beautiful chaos. Loud laughter and even louder electronic devices. Phones and doorbells ringing nonstop. Televisions blaring from rooms that are usually vacant these days. Voices
yelling calling from upstairs to downstairs and back up again.
I’ve loved it. It feels normal.
But, for a moment, I cherish this solitude.
I grab the huge stack of Christmas cards that have arrived in the mail today and a glass of tea, and head for the sunroom. There’s not much sun left, but it feels bright and cheerful there.
I savor each card.
Some are from local friends we see frequently. But more cards represent faces and voices from the past. College friends we’ve almost lost touch with. Friends from our early married days in Palm Beach. Childhood besties. High School cohorts. Former business associates. Random people we’ve met all over the place.
Some folks have been faithfully sending us annual cards for 35 years.
Until fairly recently, I kept every one of them.
Every picture and
brag Christmas letter.
How can you throw away people’s stories? Thirty-five years of a family’s life in pictures and narrative.
But I did, finally. After the AVM.
I flipped through bunches like I was shuffling cards, said a little prayer of thanks for the friendships, and let them go. (The cards and pictures, not the friendships.)
I’m finally learning to live lightly.
Ironically, that makes the pleasures sweeter. Knowing that you can’t hoard the moments makes them more poignant.
So now I think…
Thank you so much for sending this adorable picture of your sweet baby. He’ll be leaving us in January, but I’ll remember how precious he is. And I am enjoying his pretty blue eyes at this singular moment in time. A moment that passes as I draw the next breath.
The sun shifts lower into the trees outside the veranda.
I take another sip of tea.
It is bittersweet, this moment.
I close my eyes and scenes from college flash by, ignited by a friend’s card featuring her cats.
I laugh outloud, all by myself.
She was so darn funny.
She still is.
But how the heck did we get so old?
I look through the pile of opened cards in my lap. The long-haired guy that I remember dancing with a lampshade on his head (it was worse than a lampshade, but this is PG) now beams with pride as he holds his grandchild. I have to search hard to find him hiding inside that distinguished gray-haired gentleman’s guise.
Yesterday’s babies now hold babies of their own.
I sit and let it soak in.
There’s been so much rushing around, so much travel, so many Christmas parties and activities, so much company… that the season has managed to slip away, as it usually does for me. It feels like it’s over before it’s even really started. Just another whirling hurdle into the next year.
No, I'm not ready for Christmas. I haven't even bought my husband a present yet.
Respectfully, lovingly, I rest my hand on top of the pile of cards.
I am so very grateful.
Thank you, I breathe
to the senders… to God… to the universe…
for these reminders of time’s passage.
for showing me how the hours creep, but the years fly.
for the gift of this moment
in which to stop
and give thanks
for all the redeemed moments of my ransomed life.
A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments.
(from “Little Gidding,” T.S. Eliot)
To everyone who's sent us a lovely card:
Thank you for taking the time to brighten my day. Thank you for keeping up with us. Thank you for sending it to us by Snail Mail. It is such a treat to open the mailbox and find happy things in it for once!
My days of sending hand-written cards are over now, so I appreciate receiving them more than ever. For the past couple of years, I've posted an e-card on this blog. This year's is not very good. At least one daughter has groaned, "Oh, MOM, don't put that up on the internet!" But I would love to send it to anyone who would like to receive it, imperfect picture and all. I have sent it to some people in my contacts, but Granny got confused transferring the addresses to Smilebox, so now I'm not sure who received it.
Please email me at email@example.com if you'd like an email that's not an advertisement, and I'll forward our tacky card as soon as I get a chance.
May everyone else have a holiday filled with the love of God, which passes human understanding.
God rest ye merry...