Year-End Memories

I left Hong Kong, and my best friend, in 7th grade. I moved to California and she moved to Washington state. She and I wrote each other long letters and called each other frequently. Every summer we spent a week together, sometimes at my house and sometimes at hers.

Moving to a new middle school, in a new country, was hard. Really fucking hard. I did not make friends easily. At school I had almost no one–my year round swim team was where my strong connections were made. I think this helped me stay close to my best friend from Hong Kong. That, and our shared memories.

When we got together we spent a good portion of the time reminiscing. I don’t know if we did this because it is what young kids do, or because we had so little else in common after our years apart, or because Hong Kong was so different from our new lives in the United States. All I know is that we  spent much of our time together remembering our years on that over-crowded rock a half a world away.

I suppose those years spent remembering with my best friend have a lot to do with the fact that I can recall those years in Hong Kong with a clarity my other memories lack. We told the stories so many times that I know them by heart, which is probably why they are so well remembered.

I don’t know if is because of this obsessive revisiting of those years that I thought I’d always want a record of my life, but I wrote in journals and took pictures with a voracity that suggests I was sure I’d want, or maybe need, to look back some day. There are still boxes of journals and photo albums collecting dust in my parents’ garage, waiting for their reckoning,

The thing is, I don’t want to go back and look through them. I have, on occasion, pulled them out and flipped through those pages, and while it was a pleasant enough at the time, those painstaking efforts to record my life aren’t all that important to me. I don’t want to dwell in the past; I can barely keep up with the present.

Even with pictures of my children, after five years of taking literally thousands of photos, I recognize that I only need copies of the best shots, a few highlight moments to remind me of what my kids looked like years ago. I don’t even intend to make photo books for them anymore; the calendar I make every year is record enough. Even those are rarely extracted from the bookshelf to be flipped through.

{I’ve found that short movies are what I really love, because without them I’d forget what my kids sounded like, or how they walked, or the evolution of a smile on their face. It’s alarming how little of the actual details I remember even a year later. Without videos my children would be lost to me.}

We live in a small house and don’t have space for many decorations, but one thing I do invest in for the holidays are ornaments. Every year I make an ornament with a picture of my kids for myself and each set of grandparents. I also buy an ornament or set of ornaments to commemorate whatever my kids were into that year. We currently have Batman, some My Little Ponies, the Disney Princesses, Garfield, Thomas the Train, a Marvel comics set, a Sesame Street set and some Daniel Tiger characters. In this way, I spend the weeks leading up to Christmas remembering my children–what they looked like and what they loved. It makes the holidays so much more special, and allows me to dabble in a bit of nostalgia for just one month out of the year.

It has been a relief to realize that I am not pulled to re-experience the past in a way I assumed I’d want to when I was younger. I am better able to appreciate the present when I’m not scrambling to preserve what will soon be the past. Yes I still love capturing those important memories, because I know otherwise they would quickly slip away, but I don’t capture them with the intent of dwelling on what was. Instead I make an ornament, and hang that moment on my tree, along with all the other fun things that were important to my family.

And then I take a month to sit back, and remember.

8 Comments

  1. I love this! After we take the other day, I decided to make ornaments for the past 4 years of Christmases. It was a lot of fun!!!

    I’ve forgotten how the kids looked, and I love my blog for this reason. I do go back every once in a while to revisit my babies. ❤

    1. Isn’t it crazy how quickly forget how they looked? The other day FB showed me a picture of my son when he was little and for a split second I was like, whose baby is that?! I didn’t even recognize him!

  2. I can SO relate to this. I used to scrapbook almost obsessively – any event outside a “normal” work day got a page; I’d make sure I took enough pictures at each event to do a full page, often laying it out in my mind before the pictures were even developed. When I met my husband, I stopped scrapbooking completely. I was too busy enjoying our time together to stop and grab my camera. Also – if I’m being honest – I think pre-him I was always documenting everything (especially relationships) because deep down I knew they wouldn’t last, but I knew pretty quickly with him that we would be together for the long-haul. During my pregnancy I took weekly photos and collected ultrasound pictures completely expecting to do a pregnancy scrapbook; my baby is 4.5 months old and I’m maybe 10% done with it. I also bought everything I’d need to do a baby scrapbook – I haven’t done one page; in fact, I’ve taken maybe just 5% of the pictures I’d thought I’d take. I make sure to take monthly photos and for the first year we’re doing professional photos every three months; that – along with photos others (my husband/grandparents, etc.) take will have to be enough. You stated it well – “I am better able to appreciate the present when I’m not scrambling to preserve what will soon be the past.” I soak up every.single.second with my daughter. A camera lens just gets in my way…

    1. I used to be really into scrapbooking, but stopped when I got a phone with a camera (and digital photography became a thing). I definitely cherish my old scrapbooks, but I can’t be bothered to make any more. 😉

  3. I found my old middle school journals a while back. I glanced through them and then threw them away. I just didn’t want someone finding them if I died in an accident. The total drama and angst was embarrassing!

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