Memory is a strange thing isn't it? We all take away different interpretations of past events which we shared with others. What looms large in one mind becomes forgotten by someone else; and even the same memory has differing interpretations.
Yet I really think that memory is the skill I would most hate to lose as I get older. Even on a day like today, when my walk with Tess included a struggle across the pasture where the force of the wind hit me full side on and nearly blew me over, I could come back home and sit by the fire and do the fantastic Guardian Christmas Crossword (well, try to) and toast my toes by the stove and indulge in the odd Christmas memory of Christmases past.
Do you keep a Christmas card list to jog your memory each year? I do and before I write the cards I have to go through and eliminate those who have passed away during the year, making sure the card is just addressed to the wife or the husband, rather than to both. And I always have to add one or two new names - people who have become friends during the year. It is always a triumph when I do not receive a single card from someone who has not already got one from me. But this year, three cards are missing as I put them all up on the wall.
The first missing card is from a dear sister in law - still alive at 90 but, sadly in an advanced stage of dementia, so that she no longer remembers me, or even in fact my brother (her husband). What fun we had together when we were younger. I have known her practically all of my life and was her bridesmaid at their wedding in 1941. Until she went into care last year I rang her every Saturday evening and we had a long chat. Alright, so she repeated herself all the time and told me the same story over and over again, but we could reminisce about the old times.
The second missing card is from a relative of my late husband. I spoke to her last Christmas, by telephone, and she seemed fine. Looking back perhaps I was deceived, perhaps some of her generalised comments could have meant anything.. But now she has reached the stage of being in care and not remembering.
And the last is a dear old friend from my musical days. What fun we had on musical weekends away - Durham University, Burton Manor on the Wirral, Theobald's Park in Hertfordshire - all those places where we met up and made music together. Now, after a series of small strokes, her memory is 'not what it was' and I think - does she remember anything of the past fun we all had together?
Babette Deutsch (who she anyone?) put it succinctly - if a bit depressingly - when she said:
'Old women sit, stiffly, mosaics of pain.....
Their memories: a heap of tumbling stones
once builded stronger than a city wall.'
So I shall sit and remember my childhood memories of wartime Christmases - especially one when my brother unexpectedly got home leave and turned up on Christmas eve to our delight.
And then there was the one when we performed a fantastic pantomime in the village hall in our little village and another when the snow was so deep and the ice so thick that we could go sledging on Christmas Day.
Memories of our son when he was so small and would come into our bed with his pillow case on Christmas morning and take all his presents out to look at.
There is a kind of magic to memories and especially to Christmas memories - and long may it remain so.
To finish today's post - a heartwarming story told yesterday by a friend who had given the little girl next door a bag of carrots and told her to put them at intervals down the path to the front gate so that when Santa and his reindeer passed the reindeers would get the scent of the carrots and come up her drive. No carrots out on our drive but I hope Santa calls nevertheless. A mince pie and a glass of sloe vodka will be left out just in case.