Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Strange Thing.

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.


angryparsnip said...

The story about the carrots is so sweet. It reminds me when my children where small.
We lived in Laguna Beach, we had lovely beach with sand no snow. So when Santa came he left footprints of snow. Magic snow, It was flour ! The kids loved it... they never knew.
One year when the toy "Transformers" were huge oldest son got the car that transformed into a microscope. Sure enough we found my son looking at the snow trying to figure it out under the micro scope. How sweet is that.
When the youngest son saw snow for the first time he was somewhat perplexed, it didn't feel quite right !
Isn't life grand !

Merii Kurisumasu
cheers, parsnip

Gerry Snape said...

Thankyou for this lovely post!...I too keep a list and change it every year now.. a thing I did very seldom in the past! I feel as you do about memory..and have come to the point of saying to any young members of the family who think I'm forgetting..that it's not a senior moment...rather a junior one that I've never grown out of...I hear my mother say as I stop on the stairs forgetting why she sent me...geraldine what are you doing?!!!!

Have a lovely peaceful Christmas and yours.

Heather said...

A beautiful and poignant post Pat and I'm sure Santa won't forget you!
In spite of dementia my Mother had her own memories - not quite accurate perhaps but she remembered her sisters and mother and often asked after them. What she didn't realise was that she had outlived them all.
I recall homemade Christmas decorations, and homemade presents, big family gatherings and lots of laughter. Good times.

Toffeeapple said...

Enjoy your reminiscences and have a Peaceful and Joyful Christmas.

Golden West said...

Wishing you all the best at Christmas and much health and happiness in the coming year!

Dartford Warbler said...

Wishing you and The Farmer, and Tess of course, a warm and very Happy Christmas.

Yes, it is sad to make those annual changes to the Christmas card list......

Mac n' Janet said...

Our memories are the sweetest things we own, to lose them is to lose our self, that's crueler than death.
Your post really touched me.
Hope you have a warm and wonderful Christmas.

Bovey Belle said...

Sorry Santas reindeer - we ate our carrots with the beef casserole for supper!

I have been baking and thinking of years gone by, Christmases almost forgotten and people forever in my memory. I guess it's that time of year.

Mac 'N Janet - your poignant comment said it all.

You are still in your friends/relatives' memories - but perhaps overlooked just now. . . .

Arija said...

Yes Pat, all those special memories . . . Peter's birthday was on the 23rd. All week he was looking forward to it yet on his birthday morning it was the biggest surprise since he had forgotten all about if . . . so the memory loss continues . . .

It is always good to look at the memories of happier times, to air then and to keep them safe from moth attacks.

To you and your farmer, a Happy and warm Christmas and a new year dotted with all those little things that make life worth living.

Love and Blessings from so far away . . . Arija

rkbsnana said...

I too feel I would much prefer to be feeble in body than to not recognize my loved ones. I wonder too why some are afflicted with dementia and some are as sharp as ever. I have also noted as you have that we often have a different remembrance of the same event. I would love to hear of your memories of wartime as I have always admired the survivors of that period. Enjoy a wonderful day tomorrow (or today if it is Christmas there already)

Penny said...

May we retain our memories pat, but i am afraid as we all live longer that may not be possoble.
My Christmas memories are all of beach holidays of one kind or another, mostly very hot but we are blessed with lovely weather today. I would have just once loved to experience a white christmas, but perhaps I like my relaxed summer ones best.
Love hearing about yours.
Oh and I had a barn owl sitting on my knee the other day, we have them here too.

Gwil W said...

Santa left the bottle
of whisky.
He don't drink and drive
hs red nose reindeer!

George said...

A beautiful and fitting post, Pat, one that I hopefully will remember. Your life is blessed with such rich memories, and it's wonderful that you feel such gratitude for these treasures. Life, in a nutshell, is a collection of all that we have experienced, the good and the bad. It's best to forget the bad and remember the rest, not just this Christmas Day, but every day. My best to you and your family during the holidays.

Tom Stephenson said...

My memory becomes more selective the older I get, Weaver - like my hearing.