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Memories Past and Present

By on December 12, 2019
Dimitri C. Michalakis

by Dimitri C. Michalakis

My mother-in-law suffered from depression, but she was fiercely-loyal to her family, and Christmas always made her come alive and exhaust herself buying gifts for her kids and grandkids. My in-laws were not rich people, but the stack of gifts my mother- in-law accumulated was overwhelming—practically everything on your list, and anything more she could think of. And on top of that she added an envelope of money and a box of Golden Almond bars. And she wanted to make sure everybody enjoyed their gifts—and make sure she saw their faces light up when they opened them—which would make her face light up, and then when she pounded the discarded gift wrap together and cleaned up she would always say, “I just hope everybody enjoyed everything.”

I think she enjoyed it the most.

Her spirit of giving was something special—something overwhelming—and her special joy and enthusiasm for the holiday is often missed.

Particularly as we get older. I don’t have any grandkids yet, but we’re kids at heart in my family, anyway, my wife and my two daughters, and their husband and boyfriend. Christmas is a time for all of us to put on our pajamas, and keep them on, through most of the holiday, and enjoy a spell of days with each other like when the girls were kids, and the boys were kids, and they ran through the house eating alternately salty and sweet treats, and glorying over their presents.

It’s a joyous prelude to the New Year’s, which is invariably sad, because the old year is gone forever, with all its memories, all the memories from long ago are further still, so many people are missing in your life, and all you have is their photographs and remembrances of your time together.

The phenomenon as you get older is that your earliest memories seem to be the most vivid. My wife jokes that I can remember what happened forty years ago but I can’t remember what I did yesterday. She will tell me, I don’t know how many times, her schedule for the week, but she still will have to repeat it every week for me. But I literally remember the sights and smells of what happened when I was a kid back in Greece, or in Chicago.

It was in Chicago that I remember Christmas the most: as in A Christmas Story, trekking out to the local lot to buy a real tree, the selections lit up by the string of lightbulbs hanging from a string, the lot usually muddy, or slushy, or snowy, the kid who helped you pick out your tree usually some kid you knew from school who was doing this for extra money, the smell of the tree on the roof of your car, the smell of the tree up the stairs to your apartment and the trail of needles, the trail of needles when you set it up, the teamwork and laughter of putting on the lights and ornaments, while we watched Perry Como on TV doing his Christmas show, or Mitch Miller, with his chorus of old men and their golden voices on some recreated winter wonderland while the lyrics of the Christmas carols they sang showed on the bottom of the screen with a dancing ball to prompt you.

The holidays are all about memories past, present and future.

Enjoy making yours and Happy Holidays.

Dimitri C. Michalakis

About Dimitri C. Michalakis

Dimitri C. Michalakis is Editor in Chief on NEO Magazine.