I like to think of memory as a closet filled with great stacks of boxes of all shapes and sizes. To me it has always seemed that as we walk through childhood to adolescence, to adulthood, we are always sorting through the piles, divvying up the memories – cherished or not so – into their respective containers.
Sometimes we find ourselves rummaging around in there, trying to locate a remote, seldom-opened box for some urgent piece of information we thought unimportant. Other times we would like to bury something at the bottom of a pile of useless experiences. Once in a while, though, we are able to sit down and set aside those memories most dear to us, a special box or two that we keep on the closet’s top shelf, safe.
I have a couple of boxes way up there, top-shelf memories that I will never lose or confuse with the rest of the pile. Each box is different. Each has a texture, a smell, a feel.
This one is a small wooden box with smoothed edges and rough leather bindings that protects the sacred contents of my favorite memories. It looks much like a cigar box, yet bearing the lovely scent of pine; the wood is dark, though whether from age or from some other cause I would not be able to say. The veneer is nearly worn away from use. I never find myself wiping dust from the box, and when I open it, I always find its contents just as I left them: tidy, clean, and still warm to the touch.
We all have a box for our family moments as well. Mine is big, it looks like the big mint-green freezer we had in our basement, and it is filled to the brim with good old times that I will never forget and always relive.
I admit, the items I have spirited off to my small box could have fit in the freezer, but there is always something so warm and particular about family Christmas memories that I felt not at all justified in lumping them away along with great quantity of quality moments my family has shared. Christmas was and is for me always filled with faith and family. We have our traditions, simple things that make us the children around the Christmas tree that we always will be.
We loved decorating the tree together, with the lights dimmed, and some quiet classical Christmas lullabies humming to the beat set by the snapping logs in the big range stove, deliciously cozy... We would wait until the tree was completely Christmased, and then we would turn off every light in the house and plug in the tree all at once, and all exclaim: “Oooooh!”, a nostalgic Christmas tradition gifted to us from an old Garfield Christmas special.
There are more traditions. Our dear family customs somehow, even though we find ourselves a thousand miles apart, every year bring us together again to reminisce on the greatest memories of our human family – the birth of Christ our Brother and Redeemer.
And now I close my box. I don’t think I’ll put it away, though. This way I might be able to share a memory or two more with you before the season is over. Yes, I think I will carry it in the pocket closest to my heart – I think that’s the reason why I chose a box that was so small!
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