Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it. ― L.M. Montgomery
Last year, I did something I had yet to do as an adult: I put up a Christmas tree. A tiny thing, though not nearly as small as that of Charlie Brown, I placed it on one of the side tables in my apartment. Not only was this my first Christmas tree as an adult, but it was my first live Christmas tree. Sure, this meant needles falling all over the floor and dealing with my cat's desire to attack anything remotely shiny (I opted to get mostly felt ornaments, which he also liked playing with). But it also meant my home actually felt like it was Christmastime.
This year, instead of the white lights I used before, I opted to go with multicolored lights. What I failed to notice until just recently was this: Nanny always used colored lights. For the most part, so did my parents. It had been so long since I'd actually paid Christmas any attention that I forgot what Christmas had been before. Once this realization hit me, a floodgate of sorts opened. Memories I hadn't even realized I'd lost came rushing back into my mind, filling up mental nooks and crannies long since forgotten. This might not sound like a big deal, but it is.
Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence. ― Sholem Asch
The first night this memory awakening happened, sitting on the couch, listening to an audiobook, I ended up on the phone with two of my closest friends for over 3 hours combined. I verbally recalled sitting in Nanny's living room around Christmas, the snow falling outside on the hills, her driveway surrendering to the incoming sheets of ice. I remembered listening to Avalon's Christmas album on CD in the tiny bedroom. I remembered the silence and the stillness outside, the calm of an area where things like light pollution don't exist.
Of all the memories returned to me that night, one meant more than any other. I remembered the feeling of my mom holding me. In the wintertime, she would wake up before work with plenty of time to start and warm the car up before driving me the block away to the neighboring babysitter's house. I remembered the feeling of the fleece blanket around me, my head on her shoulders, and finally, of her laying me down on the couch in my neighbor's living room. I had several different babysitters in those early years, but whether the lived a block or a mile away, Mom would always make sure the car was warm. More than that — and this was the kicker — Mom always made sure I was surrounded by people who loved me.
No mother is ever, completely, a child's idea of what a mother should be, and I suppose it works the other way around as well. But despite everything, we didn't do too badly by one another, we did as well as most. ― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Like perhaps every child in the history of human existence, I haven't always been kind to my mom. Or understanding. Or sympathetic. Okay, let's be clear: on more than one occasion, I was a complete and total prick. Now my mom was not perfect; no parent is. But damn did she do a good job. More than that, she did her best. And on that night and on several nights since, memories have come back of just how good she did, of just how much she loved me and continues to love me (often in spite of myself).
Finally, the night of the great memory comeback, I lied down on the couch while on the phone with a friend. I'd spent a good chunk of the conversation crying, not because the memories returning were painful, but just the opposite: after years of only being able to remember the painful parts of growing up, I suddenly was overwhelmed by an abundance of happy memories, life-giving memories. A weight came over me like the heaviest, most comforting blanket you could imagine. It spread out over me, and it was filled with every moment of love I've ever experienced, small or large. It was stuffed with memories from long ago. It was stitched with affection and care, with intention and thoughtfulness. As I felt it drape over me, invisible of course, three words came to mind, clear and crisp: i am loved.
I don't know when I prayed for my memories to come back to me, for the blank spots to be filled again. Something happened that night, and the gratitude I feel for it cannot be articulated with words. I hope I am not the first person to have such an awakening, nor do I hope to be the last. Far from it. I hope we can all lie down somewhere comfortable and feel the safety and security of being loved fall over us, enveloping us, holding us. That's my Christmas prayer. May it be so.