Sunday Morning ~ Old Stories, New Year
Tsobola wakale sawawa. ~ Old spice does not burn anymore.
~ Chewa proverb
January 2, 2022
Tossing the calendar seems wrong. It holds a story of the year if only in shorthand notes of meetings and commitments. When the kids were babies I’d write their milestones in the small box of the day on the calendar hanging in our kitchen: Jordan-first tooth, Zack- first step, Jake-ear infection, Rachael- first solid food, Matt- first day of school, etc. knowing I wouldn’t get it into a journal while juggling a young family and graduate school. I then imagined myself on a snowy evening putting their stories together into their baby books, filling in their stories because their birthdates, weights, and parents names couldn’t describe a child. Matt’s book includes a snip of hair from his first haircut, but no subsequent child attained that kind of documentation. It’s all on the calendars though, piled onto a growing heap of years past, now requiring their own cupboard.
My kids are long past my scrutiny of milestones now only recorded in random photos which are unorganized and copious. I’m staring at shelves of old photo albums with dried glue dropping photos as the book is lifted. These then get shoved inside the cover as if they’ll have their own page ever again. They know they won’t. Years ago I told a colleague my new years resolution was to get my photos organized. She said, “That’s a great resolution. That means you won’t have to make a new one next year.” I think of that every New Year when I stare at my photo albums, half of them empty.
I have boxes of old photos passed down from older family members. Unorganized, unidentified, ghostly figures in shades of grey, oddly posed, staring at the camera. I look at the composition and think, someone thought this was a moment to remember. How can I throw them away? I wonder what their stories are; what accomplishments, what trials and successes did they have? How are they related to me? Several are in front of Christmas trees. I smile imagining the awe in the room when the tree was decorated and lit. They wanted to capture the magic, I think. The faces are smiling, the bodies well dressed. I wonder if they changed for the photos or decorated the tree in such garb? Pencil skirts and blazers, gowns, neckties, pearls and pajamas all a record of an era. With the accomplishment behind them, their anticipation is the foreground. I make up a story of what followed the snapping of the photos: a roast taken from the oven, eggnog poured, a dog disciplined, a child crying. Did they take a whole roll of film or did it sit undeveloped for a time before sent off to see what images were captured? The desire to have a memento of joy, as if we could look back and say, “See? We were happy!” Boxes wrapped and stacked so perfectly. Where along the lines did I lose that feeling of joy at the sight of those presents? Were the bulging snowsuits and fur collared coats concealed in those wrapped boxes or donned for a holiday visit, the snowscape another image needing to be preserved?
I put up my tree on Christmas eve and the photos I take never capture my feeling. I delete them and think another generation won’t be piecing together my holiday in images. I love sitting in the soft colorful glow, wondering how many decades these old lights can survive and reflect on the past and coming year. I’m happy to hunker down and embrace the short days. My season seems out of sync with the rest of the economy and I like it that way. I’m looking at this dark and quiet time as a gift, considering which stories to let go and which to keep.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year filled with new spice.
Love to all,