The time had come for me to clean out my closets in preparation for the move from one house to another. On that crisp, cold morning, I wore sweatpants, a mismatched cotton shirt and a rust-colored wool sweater. Once fashionable, the sweater was now stretched with sleeves that were rolled up a number of times to fit the length of my arms. The wool had thinned out in the elbows and it was missing a button at the collar.
The sweater belonged to my dad. But the workmanship was my mother’s. It was an intricate pattern of braid cable and twist knit, basket weave and seed stitch, with aran honeycomb and cell stitch knitting. She had made it for him long ago to guard him against the winter cold. It had seen a lot of holidays and good events over the years, but eventually, after 25 years, the sweater frayed and was left in my home to be relegated to grocery shopping in the vicinity, leaf-raking and other yard work during cold days of winter. On this particular morning, it served to keep me warm as I moved boxes with items in and out of the house and the garage.
My daughter and son had come to help as we went through closets in the house either keeping or eliminating “stuff.” Both my children had moved out of the home years ago, having built their own nests in different cities. Yet, as we worked, at least five coats, six pairs of shoes with countless pairs of socks, high school and college books and notebooks, stuffed toys and mementos, sleeping bags, board games and trophies emerged from the bowels of what was once their closet. As we sifted through the various items, we felt like we were on a journey down memory lane. “Remember when we bought this blue suit for my high school awards night?” my daughter asked. “I do remember,” I answered, as we looked at each other teary-eyed with fond shared memories. My son pulled out a neatly folded scout shirt with a sash of badges rolled inside his Eagle hat. Memories of our last camping trip with the Boy Scouts of America began to unfold as he draped the sash across his shoulder and chest. Their visit was bittersweet. A walk down memory lane.
Among the organized “chaos” of my hallway closet I found a box labeled FAMILY. It was sealed with packing tape. I cut through it. Papers and letters. Pictures of people framed in colorful ornate paper and ribbon popped out emitting a wave of nostalgia chock full of affection. They were all there, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters, every one of them gathered in pictures, richly trimmed, framed and made into beautiful handmade ornaments for the Christmas tree. This was a tradition I had started with the children, to include family members near or far, past and present, young and old, known and unknown into the joyous gathering of our home and hearts. The tradition had long since become dormant but one I seem to have held onto sealed in a box perhaps because I was trying to hold on to pieces of me, to pieces of the past, much like I had been attempting to hold on to pieces of my children and their past with “stuff” gathered in boxes. Downsizing remnants of 35 years of my children’s life was not easy. How could I downsize even further remnants of sentimental attachment to family?
I know and I realize our memories are within us and not within our “stuff” in hallway closets and boxes, proof of which I had carried the memories and the love of the past into our home without ever accessing the sealed boxes in nearly 20 years. But we hold on to those we love, that which we are, and that which we never want to lose. We cling to their memory.
This box was a keeper. I labeled it FAMILY CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS. They, along with the new additions of people who are most dear to me in this world would decorate the Christmas tree in the new home. I closed the box, ready for the move.
This Christmas, may you each find your sealed box of memories; visit it, open it, share it, fill your heart with nostalgia, and unfold the love that resonates deep within you. This Christmas, may the memories cling to you as comfortably as does the fit and warmth of this old sweater I wear. Merry Christmas!