For this waning shadow of 2015, I share these reflections from 2008…
Over the past 18 years, Kevin and I have managed to accumulate a vast quantity of stuff (no other word will do). When we moved to our current house almost seven years ago, a good number of boxes just got moved into the attic without opening. I spent much of today, in this waning shadow of 2008, sorting the “throw-away” from the “keeper” pile. A seemingly appropriate activity for New Years Eve.
In the process, I stumbled upon buried treasure. I found a Camp Fowler stuffed animal moose from my brother Danny, complete with miniature Fowler t-shirt and miniature backpack. I gave it to Sam when he got back from Miss Judy’s, and he thought it was awesome – for about two minutes (the attention span of a two-year-old).
In a box marked “Christmas stuff,” I found two mugs decorated with snowmen and a matching candle set. Adorable. I have a vague recollection of receiving it from some kind family member (forgive me, I don’t remember who!) several years ago.
I found wrapping paper, tissue paper, cards I bought but never sent. I found many pictures that were long forgotten: me and Kevin in a formal pose from at least 17 years ago (boy, were we young!); pictures of friends’ kids that we received in Christmas cards over the years; some visitors on the couch when we first moved in with boxes still piled in the corner of our living room.
And I found letters from dear friends, near, far, and … forgotten, I daresay. The near and far – Laura, Goodith, Rhonda – their words and annual cheer from years gone by and miles away made me feel connected to a greater story.
There were childhood birthday cards and Christmas cards from Aunt Miriam, my mother’s cousin Jeannette, Grandma and Grandpa Darrow, and even my 3rd grade Sunday School teachers.
And then there was the one Christmas card from East Germany, not dated, but it had to be from 1989. That is the year I spent the summer in Austria and Hungary. I met an East German family there, in Hungary on Lake Balaton. I remember now playing guitar by the campfire and singing worship songs in German, and their little girl’s sweet voice singing along with me. They sent me a card that year. On the front it said, “Fröhe Weihnachten und ein glückliches neues Jahr!” (Merry Christmas and a happy New Year). Inside was a handwritten note that read:
We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Well soon we will have Christmas. It’s the famous celebration of the hole year, especially for children. We don’t yet know which present could be a surprise for Janine. On Christmas Eve we celebrate at my parents and on Christmas Day we drive to Danielas parents.
Now it’s rather cold with much ice and a little bit snow. All people in our country are pushing through the streets to get what they need for Christmas. We have to queue up for many things like oranges, bananas, nuts, meat and so on. Very often they aren’t to be had. But nevertheless we like Christmas.My mother is going to the church on Christmas Eve and may be I’ll company her.
All the best from Daniela, Janine and Stefan
Don’t forget us.
Don’t forget us, almost casually added. But Stefan must have known as he threw in that last plea, that in the midst of my own famous celebrations and cold winter and pushing through the streets with my own people in my own country, that I would likely forget about them and their lack of oranges and which present would be a surprise for Janine. Forgive me, Daniela, Janine and Stefan. I forgot. Until now.
Bobby Burns, I’ll steal from thee, and ask, “should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” No, for goodness sake, the people who take the time to acquaint themselves with you should not be forgotten, and if they are, bring them back to mind. Open those dusty boxes, reread old letters, look at pictures of when we all were younger, fuller, less wrinkly, more hopeful, less wise. Remember Daniela, Janine and Stefan. Remember Rhonda, Goodith, Laura, Danny, Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, cousins, uncles, Camp Fowler, and the myriad other moments, places, and people that have made you richer than Croesus.
Remember always the Grace that saves, and drink deeply from the cup of kindness.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.