I was driving down the road the other day, looking at all the things that aren’t there anymore. City Hall looks very different than it did when I was growing up. The Guinn Tourist Home turned into a Hardees. And the wonderful old Patterson house is now a vacant lot, compliments of a fire a few years ago.
You know what else is missing? The people that, in days long since passed, occupied those places that I find myself thinking of more and more. Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of a baking marathon and I’m just tired . . . or maybe I’m getting older and beginning to realize how much the things of my past mean to me now. And how much I wish I could go back.
How wonderful it would be to make the trip to Bolivar again for Christmas with my grandparents, to compete against my brother on the trip over, trying to see who could find the most Christmas decorations before we reached our destination. There were very specific rules for that game. It had to be a house—no businesses—and it had to be facing the road. Even just a wreath on the door counted and every house was equal. No extra points because they had a yard full of stuff. We played it every year that we traveled west and you could be pretty well assured that whoever lost going over would win coming back . . . unless everyone had gone to bed and turned off their Christmas lights. Then it was anyone’s game.
I don’t remember much about the food at those gatherings, except that my grandmother, or Mom as we all knew her, was a wonderful hostess with some excellent help in the kitchen. Dessert often included sweetened condensed milk that had been slowly simmered in the can for hours until it morphed into the most delicious caramel I’d ever had. She would detach the top and bottom from the can once it had cooled, then use the bottom to force the caramel out in one neat cylinder. After about a quarter of an inch she’d stop and cut a slice, using the can as her guide. Serve that with some vanilla wafers and you had what I believe was my favoritest dessert ever. Maybe not because it was so good (even though it was good), but because of the memories in which it is wrapped.
In the course of all my wandering around in the past, I had a startling revelation. Granted, it’s a thought that I’m sure I’ve had many times, but never in this context. The memories I cherish so, the memories which, on occasion, I long to return to, are the memories that I am now creating with my children and grandchildren. The day will come when I am no longer here, at least not as I am now, and hopefully they will hold fond memories of cookie baking and birthdays and Christmas suppers that are probably more like dinners than I’m willing to admit. Hopefully, they’ll look back at what is my now and wish for those days again.
I know I’ve said all this before. I’ve even used the picture attached to this blog before, but it’s one of my favorites and most perfectly illustrates the point I want to make. Even the simplest of moments can fill a lifetime with memories, but only if we are present for them. So take some time this Christmas to be thankful for all your blessings. Take some time to recognize the beauty and importance of the little things. Always make the time you have with the ones you love count, so someday they’ll look back and wish for more.