Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Holidays provide gift of memories

November 21, 2001

Laura and I decided we couldn't miss the promised once-in-a-lifetime celestial event that the Leonid meteor shower offered Sunday. We did find it was easier to make the vow Saturday evening than when the alarm went off at 4 a.m.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn't respect the rarity of the occasion or our dedication. By the time we made it outside at about 4:30, stars only peaked through the clouds in a window of open sky directly overhead.

Still, the meteor shower didn't disappoint. We didn't see the 70 meteors a minute some astronomers promised, but a minute of sustained sky gazing produced 10 to 15 shooting stars.

The neighborhood was surprisingly busy for the early hour as nearby families shared a special occasion that will be retold in the decades ahead.

As the holidays approach, memories are much on my mind.

Both my parents came from large families. Thanksgivings and Christmases were spent in the crowded farmhouse of one of my grandparents. I didn't realize it then, but those days shared with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins provided me with the wonderful gift of memory, memories that become more precious to me with the passing of those who helped make them.

They are not only the memories of play and camaraderie, but of learning of a shared family history that put color in the sepia tones of early 20th Century life.

To quiet us from our "take it outside" moments, the adults would share tales of family history. These memories were of snakes in outhouses, bulls on the loose and other topics that delighted us youngsters. Sometimes, grandparents would learn of misdeeds of their children or the missing piece of a puzzle 20 or 30 years after the fact. My cousins and I had our favorites that we requested time and again. I'm sure they grew somewhat with each telling and the willingness to entertain.

Not all the stories were humorous. The mood could grow somber as our elders remembered the hardships of the Depression and of war.

The story-telling session dropped away, as my cousins and I grew older. As teenagers, we much preferred to catch up with each other on the here and now.

Those were good times, too, but now I think of lost opportunities. What could I have heard from someone I will never have the chance to learn from again?

The antidote to this speculation is the fact that memories are made every minute. And this holiday season is an opportunity to create memories I will nostalgically treasure in the years to come.

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