IMAGE COURTESY CREATIVE COMMONS
Good memories of any Christmas season are arguably composed of equal parts shortbread, Icy Squares, spiced rum, toys, love, and laughter along with some cool finger-food you don’t normally eat the rest of the year. But most two-week breaks are not solely composed of eating, drinking, and socializing – they’re also a convenient time for me to get caught up on all the odd jobs I’ve been putting aside throughout the year and when my youngest son added a “room re-do” to his Christmas wish-list, it was an easy way to kill two birds.
Like many largescale projects, it seemed like a good idea at the time and it actually would have been a good idea had my husband not chosen the exact same time to sort through 20 years’ worth of accumulated receipts, tax returns, and utility bills, not to mention almost a collective 30 years’ worth of the kids’ school work. Oh yes, he also went through a staggering amount of video cassettes (remember those?), toy vehicles of all makes and models, and years’ accumulation of board games. Rather than a celebration of family and downtime, my holiday unearthed years-old dust bunnies, both literal and figurative.
Our new dog, who had just been getting used to us, developed a new habit of hiding under the blanket on my bed, logically as a coping mechanism to deal with one emptied out bedroom, furniture in the hallway, a child sleeping on the couch, a laundry basket full of old bills and tax reports sitting by the woodstove for proper disposal, and a smattering of paper IGA grocery bags (remember those?) packed with elementary school art projects waging emotional warfare between my sentimentality and pragmatism.
Just to add a sense of fun in the midst of it all, our internet connection died – for what in reality was a mere 18 hours but what by First World Problem standards was an eternity - immediately followed by a frozen pipe on our street that left us without water for the better part of a day, quickly educating the kids on which was worse – no Reddit/metal or no flushing toilets. It made for a memorable holiday.
Though at this writing the paint - and the tears - are still drying, things are settling. Years of Halloween costumes and props have been donated to my son’s high school département d'art dramatique, the outgrown board games have been dropped off at the church friperie, and every fire in the woodstove is satisfyingly started with copies of old tax forms.
My fight with clutter is an uphill battle as nature abhors a vacuum – no sooner had some room opened up in the storage spot under the stairs when my dear brother dropped off thousands of photographic slides my dad had taken over a span of at least five decades along with the clunky, noisy, but still functional slide projector.
So my unrelaxed, dirty, dusty, partially waterless holiday wrapped up in a way I hadn’t predicted… with paint-splattered, unwashed hair, surrounded by bright, gouache primary-school
masterpieces, in the company of my kids, looking through the goofy clothing and hairstyle images of my youth in family vacations and birthdays, using laughably obsolete technology.
What feeds our memories is essentially useless when kept confined to storage bins, musty boxes, and dark closets. The best way to respect the smiles and laughter they once brought is to drag them out, dust them off, and – if necessary – give them away.
If the memories are good, as long as they’re shared, they’ll never die.