I'm writing this on December 26th - Boxing Day. You're probably recuperating after a few days of some pretty epic Christmasing. I sincerely hope that you had a wonderful holiday with pleasant memories to take away! Today also happens to be my mother's birthday. For any readers who don't know, she passed away seven years ago but would have been 66 years old today. Don't worry, that isn't the point of this post - I promise I won't go all depressing on you - it's just an integral fact to provide some thematic context.
We have all heard - and likely, said - something about how the holidays are supposed to be about presence, not presents. Quality, not quantity. Pick your platitude - the point is that we are all aware that our energy and attention should be focused on creating memories and happiness, not credit card debt or high blood pressure. My family has been saying for years that we need to increase efforts to decrease stress. Enjoy the moments, forget the costly gifts. We're still working on that, but are making progress. In any case, something happened this year that really put it into perspective for me , and that will (hopefully) stick with me for a long time.
Before we get to my epiphany - a few things stood out for me this holiday season that follow the same theme. Things that made me generally content and grateful for my life. The moments that will undoubtedly stand out in my memory when I'm old(er) and gray(er), and thinking about Christmases past. This isn't unusual, there's often at least one Hallmark worthy moment that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I can assure you that I won't remember all of the gifts that were exchanged in any given year. Most of them were pretty cool, but there is always something "pretty cool" because we don't give frivolously and we try to gift with meaning. For example, I'm not going to remember how many gifts anyone received this year but you can bet your ass that I'll remember the joy I felt when I opened a jigsaw puzzle of Banjo's face. And how touched I was from a cross stitched rendition of me and Banjo, subtly referencing this blog and now it's new headline image.
Money was spent, food was consumed, gifts were exchanged, and effort was put in by everyone. Even considering any of that, here are some of the things that I'm really going to remember and hold dear from this holiday season. Spoiler alert: They didn't cost much, and most didn't seem like a big deal at the time.
My dog didn't pee on anyone's presents or tree. That puts us at 50% for his Christmasing years, so here's hoping the upward trend continues. For that matter, nobody peed on anyone's Christmas tree, so......that's a win.
When pulling up to the designated meeting spot for a horse drawn Christmas Eve family sleigh ride, Madelyn exclaimed that she couldn't wait to "fly on Santa's sleigh" - because in her 3 year old's mind, what other sleigh would be out on Christmas Eve?
The facial expressions of the tiny humans when they had free reign to decorate an epic gingerbread house with the icing and inexpensive candy set in front of them.
Hearing my dad and other loved ones play music while we all gathered together.
A new memory involving my mother.
Yup, you read that right! A new memory involving my mom. It came in the form of a ceramic soap dish in the shape of a slightly randy looking frog, made in 1978.
This is the "something" that really shifted things for me and is essentially the crux of my message, so I'll elaborate further.
My aunt (from my dad's side) is one of the most unique characters I know. She has a fascinating history that even I am only partially aware of. One of her most infamous qualities is her complete fascination and in-depth knowledge of our family's history and genealogy. Seriously, I would bet that she could take any two readers here and within an hour prove you were somehow related with nothing more than three questions and an internet connection. She saves everything, and remembers the person(s) and story of how that item came into her possession many years after the fact. Point being, she can appreciate how a seemingly worthless token may mean something someday.
I don't know the circumstances of how this frog came to be. All I do know is that 40 years ago, my mom made this silly frog soap dish. She painted it, carved her initials in it, and gave it to someone as a token. I never knew about it. Why would I - this certainly isn't something that would have warranted special conversation in normal circumstances. "Hey Kat, did I ever tell that you some time before you were born, I painted a frog soap dish for Patsy? By the way, can you pass the butter?" Yeah, no. Against all odds, this frog is still around. My aunt insisted that I take it. She's fully aware that it has no commercial value, but that I would appreciate it. I cannot express how grateful I am. It's been two days full of festive fun and I am still overwhelmed, on mom's birthday, struggling to articulate how much I appreciate this damned frog who gave me an unexpected new memory about her. It's nothing more than a painted soap dish, a frog, from 1978 - it sounds ridiculous. But it's everything.
My wish for all of you is that you enjoy moments with the people who make moments worth having. That you get to make memories that will be reflected upon years later by you as well as younger loved ones. That you recognize those moments when they're happening, and appreciate them.
That little moment just may end up being someone else's frog.