A moment for memory

Kids in Idaho line up on a pipe to watch chickens, 4th of July, 2013
Kids in Idaho line up on a pipe to watch chickens, 4th of July, 2013

Today I am working on my annual Christmas letter. It’s a Big Deal.

I’ve been writing big long Christmas letters for a very long time. There came a point when I realized that I was not finding time to write and tell everyone what was going on in my life as often as I liked. In fact I was fairly certain that my annual Christmas card was the only time I wrote some of the people in my address book. In the mid 1990s there was no facebook to keep in touch with everybody. So I decided to write a nice long letter with pictures, to be suitable for someone I had written a letter to the week before, or for someone who hadn’t heard from me in a year.

It is on those years when I’m really, really late that I realize how much people like getting them. I have had worried inquires, “You haven’t dropped me from your list? I count on getting your letter every year!”

But on the years when I’m on time, I also get thank you notes from girlfriends who say, “I saved your letter till Saturday morning, so I could read it with a cup of coffee, and savor every page.”

The letters aren’t that amazing. They’re just long (4 pages typed), and silly, and dramatic, and honest. I really honestly DO put everything that happened to us in each letter. So…people hear about the latest report card as often as they hear about the latest breakup. I told about the heartache of foreclosure and divorce, but I also told about the thrill of traveling to Greece and Turkey, and about my baby girl learning to walk and her first day at school, and about our plans and schemes.

And maybe that’s what people like: I’m putting it all out there. Mine is a real life. It’s embarrassing and awesome. I’m proud, and plaintive, and naive, and egotistical, and generous, and ridiculous, and beautiful, and inspiring. Maybe people feel good to see that their life is probably not fundamentally different than mine? Could be.


So I’m skimming all my photos from 2013, choosing what to put into this year’s letter. I found this one and remembered how much I LOVE it! We had just purchased fireworks at a dinky little trailer parked near Dan’s Ferry, on the Snake River in Idaho. I saw the scene and commented to Arno, “I wish I could take a picture of that.” He said, “Your camera’s in the truck. Go get it.” I just looked wistfully at the children. He got more insistent, “GO! Get the camera!” So I ran off and came back and they were all still there, and look at what a great scene it was.

Memories are wonderful to me. That’s why I’ve kept a journal since I was 7 years old, and why I blog now. That’s why I make the effort to write a full report every time I take a trip, endure an event, begin something new, or remember to keep in contact with friends and family. It’s so helpful to me to look through the old records and see how I’ve changed, how I’ve grown, how I’ve regressed. It’s good to be reminded what really happened, as opposed to how I remember it. It’s good to remember how much the pain hurt me, or how deliriously happy I was. If I hadn’t taken this photo, I would have forgotten it (thank you Arno). If I hadn’t saved the photo or reviewed old files, I would have forgotten it. But now that I remember, what a fun smile came to my face, and a happy warm glow of memory from that stormy evening last summer.

{Curious? I’ve posted all of themĀ at my website here.}

2 thoughts on “A moment for memory

  1. Besides all of the great reasons that you’ve mentioned already, another reason to continue the letter is for you and for Tara! You have documented history. Excellent!
    I also like the fact that you send a letter still. No matter how much I use and love the computer and internet, I remain an avid card sender. There is nothing like getting a letter/card in the mail.
    Good for you!!

    1. Great point, LB! And you are so right about the incomparable feeling of getting a letter or card in the mail. It’s so rare anymore, that receiving a letter in the mail is like getting a gift.

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