Making Memories

I’ve been unplugged for eight days. It’s the longest time in years that I’ve been without a keyboard at my fingertips and though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been busy.

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Arlington National Cemetery, December 17, 2016.

During last Saturday’s ice storm in Washington, DC, Tim and I joined 40,000 other volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery for Wreaths Across America, honoring and remembering those who served our country. It was an amazing, heartfelt effort. Along with others in our group, we met and shared stories with people from across the country—young and old, spry and infirm—savoring unity in a time of division.

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A high school group from New Jersey on an icy morning at Wreaths Across America.

We also visited the welcoming home of our older son, relishing a few happy days with him, our daughter-in-law, and our grandchildren, enjoying good meals and good times—reading books, driving through the surrounding countryside, and seeing a new movie.  Surprisingly, the best moments with the little ones were enjoyed at the kitchen sink, where we took turns washing dishes.  But that’s the way it is, isn’t it?  The most mundane things can be, and often are, the ones that provide the most pleasure.

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In the right company, even washing dishes is fun.

After seeing Tim off but before pointing the car towards home, I also visited my step-father and extended family in the southern-most part of the state.  There, we kept Christmas by placing red roses at my mother’s resting place, marking her first birthday since she passed away in May.  And we looked to the future, with cheers for an engagement that promises a joyful gathering in October 2017.

My recent return to South Carolina included the happy surprise of paperwhite bulbs blooming in the kitchen window, plus handfuls of holiday cards which arrived while I was away.  One, from a sweet gardening friend, included a copy of the poem at the end of this note.  It’s a lovely, sentimental complement to the season.

Today’s newspaper column about our native red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), the traditional Christmas tree of years past, features a family photo taken on Christmas morning in 1966.  I don’t remember the exact moment the picture was made by my father, or even what I found under the tree, but I can tell you with certainty what happened next.  With presents unwrapped and breakfast tucked away, my two sisters and I were made presentable for a visit to our grandparent’s farm, where we reveled in food and fun with an untold number of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

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Family photo, Christmas 1966. (That’s me on the left, with gorgeous bed hair.)

It’s been nearly 50 years since that morning, but it doesn’t seem so long ago.  Memories, I’ve discovered, whether newly-made or long-cherished, are the consummate reward for the meaningful times we spend together.

And today, finally, I turn on the computer to find my blogging friends sharing holiday greetings with one and all, along with entertaining stories and best recipes. It’s the perfect gift—another full and jubilant refrain added to the song of life.

This Christmas, I hope you, too, are making new memories, and I send my very best wishes for all good things in the year ahead.

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Happy Christmas 2016!

 

Homesick

What is the thing inside

that follows the earthy smell of morning

out into the day, carries me down the road

in my car to the fabric store, to hover

over remnant tables, finger folds

of blue and green calico—little Dutch

girls and shamrocks, linger over cards

of brightly colored bias tape and silvery

snaps? The thing inside that pulls

me further down the road to wander

through nurseries, yearning

for yardfuls of lilac and peony bushes,

tugs me toward antique stores,

something about a pitcher, clear

glass, and milk so cold it hurts?

The thing inside brings me home,

knows what it is

I am trying to remember.

 

At home, my girls are needful, weary,

too much wear and tear

in their days. I spoon mellow,

peppery chicken pie into creamy dishes set

on October-blue mats, watch them lift the crust

with their forks to see what’s inside, suspecting

vegetables in there with the chicken. “You know

what my Mamaw used to say

to me?” I tell them, “Eat every carrot

and pea on your plate.”

 

I tell them about a salt-and-pepper

woman, round faced like me,

in a hairnet and blue cotton duster,

her yard full of cousins, hiding

in flowering bushes

and twilight from parents

already in their cars.

 

Oh I yearn to live

for the things I love, for the thing I put

inside the food and girls

who eat, for the road

and the thing inside the road that follows

after me and calls me back, to the pitcher

Mamaw trusted me to lift from the refrigerator

and pour, not because I was big enough,

but because I was

so in love with the pitcher

and with her.

 

by By Diane Gilliam Fisher

30 thoughts on “Making Memories

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Libby–Yes, the hair–escaped from a high ponytail–is something else, isn’t it?! Looking at these photos again, I see Caitlin (our granddaughter) slept in her braids.

      Reply
  1. j28226

    Marian, what a great story as all of your pieces are. Just lovely short stories and this one with a charming picture of beautiful young girls with such a great future ahead of them.

    Reply
  2. germac4

    A lovely Xmas post.. Best Christmas wishes for you & your family. Great photo of the two little ones at the sink…. So very true that the small moments are often the happy ones.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Gerrie–Such fun at the sink with the kids. I’m afraid I might have created a problem for their mother though, as I heard them clamoring to “help” the morning of my departure.

      Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Susan–The family is scattered and everyone likes to be at their own place for the big day, but we always try to spend some time together before or after. I’ll be interested to see what you are up to for New Year’s 2017!

      Reply
  3. Brenda

    A wonderful post. The 1966 Christmas photo is lovely and such a slice out of time. The outfit your Mom is holding looks familiar. Maybe for a Chatty Cathy or Patti Playpal doll? And I love the date on the photo–March 1967. It seems so bizarre now that we had to wait until we finished the whole roll of film before we processed it.

    Reply
  4. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Brenda–There is another reason, too, that the photo might have been processed in March. My father was in the US Navy and was on leave for a period of time before taking up his new assignment in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If my memory is correct, he went to Cuba in January ’67 and we joined him in March. Likely, this roll of film and others would have then been processed when we were again living on a military base, where it would have been less expensive. In fact, I think my mother is actually holding a bathing suit for my youngest sister, born in October ’66. Sadly, this was our next-to-last Christmas, as my father was reassigned at the end of 1967 and died in Vietnam in March 1968. I remember my father well (from a child’s point of view) and very much enjoy old photos of this happy time when we were all together.

    Reply
    1. Brenda

      Oh my. That photo really is weighted with memories. I cannot adequately express how sorry I am that you lost your father in Vietnam. How fortunate that you were old enough to remember him, though. We are, after all, mostly comprised of a muddle of memories. But still, death leaves a hole where memories should be. Homesick indeed. Here’s to the creation of rich new memories over the next year.

      Reply

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